IF the Tokyo Olympics golf tournament would start today, Yuka Saso and Dottie Ardina would be shooting for the country’s elusive first gold medal.
Saso and Ardina are in the top 60 world Olympic qualifying rankings released by the International Golf Federation and have the inside track on coveted spots under the selection process devised by the world golf body.
The top 60 men and 60 women at the end of the Olympic qualifying deadline for golf set June 21 and June 28, 2021, respectively, will make it to the rescheduled Tokyo Games.
A double gold medalist in the 2018 Asian Games, Saso has been stellar in her rookie stint on the LPGA Japanese Tour and is currently ranked No. 36 in the world.
Saso, who anchored the national squad to a sweep of team and individual titles in the Asiad in Jakarta, Indonesia, banked on her breakthrough win in the NEC Karuizawa golf tournament two weeks ago to move 10 rungs up the ratings from her previous rank of No. 46.
The Filipino-Japanese campaigner is expected to rise further once the new ratings are released later this week following her triumph in the Nitori Ladies golf championship, her second in three stints in the Japanese LPGA tour, in Otaru Hokkaido, Japan last Sunday.
Also within the magic 60 circle is former golf prodigy Ardina, currently competing in the US LPGA Tour, who is ranked No. 56.
The Philippines made its golfing debut in the quadrennial meet in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games through former Philippine Open champion Juan Miguel Tabuena, who finished 53rd out of the 60 entries with a four-round score of 291, seven-over par.
Angelo Que and Ardina also qualified for Rio but decided to skip the event due to the Zika virus epidemic that had then broken out in Brazil.
The Tokyo Olympic Games women’s golf competition will be played after the men’s tournament and is scheduled from August 4 to 7, 2021 on the par-71, 7,466-yard East course of the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, 29.4-kilometers from the Japanese capital.
Meanwhile, 30th Southeast Asian Games double gold medalist Bianca Pagdanganan shot an even par 72 yesterday to finish tied for 71st place with four others at the close of the Walmart NW Arkansas golf championship at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas.
Pagdanganan had a 54-hole tally of 210 over the par 71 6,438-yard course, netting $4,329 (roughly P209,514) for her efforts.