Reigning US Open champion Yuka Saso officially acquired Japanese citizenship.
Saso was born to a Japanese father and a Filipino mother in the Philippines.
Saso became the second world-class athlete from the Philippines to opt out of Filipino citizenship after reigning US Chess grandmaster Wesley So got his US citizenship recently.
This trend could be a harsh indictment of how the Philippine government treats its athletes in international campaigns or the rut many think the country is in.
Saso told sports reporters in Japan: “Under Japanese law, prior to turning 22 years old, I have to choose between Japanese and Filipino citizenship. I will be turning 22 years old on June 20, 2022, and, after much thought and consultation with my family, friends, and advisors, I have begun the process of acquiring Japanese citizenship.”
“Thank you for respecting my choice. I am grateful to both my Filipino and Japanese supporters. I would not have achieved anything in my career without your support. I look forward to making you proud as I continue with my professional golfing career,” Saso added.
“Nihon no minasama kore kara mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu! (To everyone in Japan, thank you for your continued support!)”
It also puts in doubt whether International Container Services Inc. (ITCS) businessman and golf enthusiast Enrique Razon would continue to support Saso now that she waves a different flag.
The Bulacan-born Saso was a protégé of the junior program of ICTSI, a brainchild of Razon, and has remained the golfer’s biggest supporter in her local and international campaigns.
In a statement ITCS said it understands that Saso, though born and raised in the Philippines, is a global golf star and that it is more convenient to be a Japanese citizen. Unfortunately Japanese law does not allow dual citizenship.
Saso emerged as one of the country’s sports heroes in 2021 with her incredible come-from-behind victory in the 76th US Women’s Open from June 3 to 6 this year at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, tying South Korean Inbee Park as the youngest winner of the prestigious champion at 19.
Philippine Olympic Committee President Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino thanked Saso for having represented the country in major global competitions with a flourish and expressed belief that despite her decision to embrace Japanese citizenship, “she remains a Filipino by heart.”
PSC Chairman Butch Ramirez said he fully understood Saso’s decision, saying “that is her right. There are big international golf competitions in Japan, a rich country. It would have been different if we have those.”
On the part of Wesley So, the Filipino-born 27-year-old super-grandmaster got his American citizenship on February 26, 2021, at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in Minneapolis.
Interviewed by Debbie Cannon of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, So called America “the land of opportunity” as he explained why he wanted to become a citizen: “I want to give back to a country that has been so good to me. From the moment I landed here I was encouraged and enabled to become better than I was. I like this attitude and the tremendous generosity of American culture. Most people here have no idea what it is like anywhere else in the world, and they don’t appreciate the amazing spirit of this country. I have competed in most countries of the world and I can say … I love it here!”