Jones Creek, Georgia – Yuka Sasso’s photo was hung from a Manila skyscraper the day after she became the first Filipino player to win a major tournament title. Sasso made the front page of every major newspaper in her country, and Postmaster General Norman Fulgencio announced that her face would appear on a postage stamp.
No wonder Sassu slept with the cup on the first night.
“Actually, my glass stayed on the bed and I stayed on the sofa,” she joked.
Sasso is the latest in a long line of players who have made their first LPGA title a groundbreaking one. Seven of the last 11 major winners, in fact, were first-time winners of the Tour. Four of these seven players were non-members.
When Sasso clinched the Olympic Club Women’s US Open in the third round of qualifying, she also received a five-year exemption from the WTA. That’s a new bonus – dubbed the Popov Rule – after Sofia Popov won the AIG Women’s British Open title in 2020, and fanfare ensued as she wasn’t in next week’s event, let alone the next major, as a non-member. I only got a two-year exemption on the tour.
The LPGA announced changes that addressed all of these issues earlier this year.
“She gets everything she deserves,” Popov said. “She’s a great player. She’s a great human being. There’s no reason why she can’t get a five-year exemption on tour.”
Sasso, who turned 20 on Sunday 20, was elated about meeting his idol Rory McIlroy (and Phil!) for the first time at the US Open in Torrey Pines. McIlroy invited her inside the ropes, and the woman who had spent hours watching YouTube videos of McIlroy’s swing got her own video. She was even more nervous to meet McIlroy because she was above the flying position she needed to win the US Women’s Open.
“I didn’t know how to say hi,” she said.
When asked how often she has watched the highlights of her Olympic victory, Sasso said she doesn’t like watching herself.
“I’d rather watch Rory,” she said with a smile.
Jennifer Kupshaw is the highest-rated player in the LPGA, at 24, who has yet to win the Tour. She tied for second place at Evian in her rookie season and took home seventh in the Women’s PGA Championship in 2021.
The last seven LPGA winners also happen to be the main first-time winners. They come from five different countries and none of them are Americans.
When Stacey Lewis first came on tour in 2009, she felt that roughly 30 players had a chance in any given week. She said that number had doubled.
“It shows these girls are more willing to go out,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing is that they are more prepared for the big stages and to deal with their pressure, which is great. You don’t necessarily want to have a huge learning curve and all that.”
“I don’t know if we will continue to see him. It is very difficult to win now.”