Yuka Saso came from behind to capture the 2019 Girls Junior PGA Championship Friday at Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford, Connecticut.
Trailing Rose Zhang by one stroke entering the final round, Saso finished with a 3-under 67 to finish at 14-under, two strokes clear of Jensen Castle.
“Winning in the United States is really special,” said Saso, who finished in a tie for sixth in the Girls Junior PGA last year. “It’s really hard to do since I live in Asia. I’m just really happy and thankful.”
2017 winner Rose Zhang held the solo lead for most of the championship, but back-to-back bogeys on holes 5 and 6 slid the 16-year-old from Irvine, Calif., into a tie for first with Castle and Melanie Green at 10-under. It marked the first time since early in the second round that Zhang did not hold the solo lead.
Four holes later on No. 10, Saso took sole possession of the lead with a birdie to reach 11-under, one ahead of Zhang and Castle at the time.
“My goal this week was to play steady and have fun,” said Saso. “I think I did that well.”
Saso struggled early with bogeys at holes 3 and 5, but her confidence never wavered. She went bogey-free the rest of the round and added five birdies, including four on the back nine.
“I didn’t feel comfortable on the front nine,” said Saso. “From the tee, it was really hard for me. After the two bogeys, I told myself, ‘it’s OK. I still have the back nine.’ It was pretty windy on the back, but my putting started to work.”
Saso is no stranger to success. She’s a two-time reigning Philippine Ladies Open champion, and she also earned two gold medals in the 2018 Asian Games. Friday’s victory adds yet another impressive win to the resume.