Yuka Saso and co. seen to have 'realistic chance' at medaling in Tokyo

Weather could prove to be a key advantage for golfers Yuka Saso, Bianca Pagdanganan, and Juvic Pagunsan in their bid to piece together a historic run for the Philippines in the Tokyo Olympics.

National Golf Association of the Philippines (NGAP) Secretary-General Bones Floro said the humid Tokyo summer could bode well for the trio's "realistic chances of podium finishes" in the Games kicking off next month.

"It might be warmer or more humid than it is here in the Philippines. Tokyo in summer is not very pleasant weather-wise, but that should work very well for our delegation, for our athletes," explained Floro during the virtual Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum Tuesday.

Japan's summer season runs from June to August. While high temperatures could pose problems for golfers not used to stuffy conditions, Floro believes the Philippine team would be right at home under the heat in the Kasumigaseki Country Club.

"Summer in Tokyo is Pinoy-friendly. Our athletes only have difficulties playing in colder countries where you have to layer yourself which would be debilitating and prohibitive to your golf swing. That in itself is an advantage to us," he claimed.

Floro went on to say that the Filipino trio is already in peak form and that, coupled with the summer weather, gives the country a good shot at taking home a medal.

"I've been very vocal about this: all three of our athletes have realistic chances of podium finishes, if not even gold. Why? They've proven it. They have the heart. They have determination. Their work ethic is amazing. They're so disciplined," he remarked.

Even better, the golf course in Kawagoe, Saitama could also benefit the Philippine golfers depending on how it is set up by technical officials, although the NGAP also pointed out the team would be comfortable regardless of the setting.

"If they set it up long, then it favors our ladies because both of them are considered to be on the stronger side among professionals when it comes to length. Juvic is also a very strong player. It suits them better if it's a longer course, definitely," he detailed.

It also helps that the Saso and Pagunsan are no strangers to the Olympic golf course.

Saso, who made history last week by becoming the first Filipino to win a major tournament after topping the U.S. Women's Open, is a regular on the course since she plays in the LPGA of Japan Tour. Pagunsan knows his way around as well as a competitor in the Japan Golf Tour, where he finally won his first title after ruling the 2021 Mizuno Open in late May.

"Yuka and Juvic will be comfortable with both of them playing in the Japan Tours. Bianca plays mainly in the U.S., but we've taken her to events in Japan before," shared Floro.

All three are on track to qualify for the Olympics. Saso is basically a shoo-in after jumping to No. 8 in the Olympic Golf Ranking thanks to her historic U.S Women's Open win, while Pagdanganan, currently sitting at No. 42, just has to maintain her spot inside the top 60 until the end of the qualifying period to join Saso as the second Filipina representative.

Pagunsan, meanwhile, is slotted at No. 51 and will have to hold it down until the men's qualifying period wraps up on June 21.

The Philippine contingent is set to fly to Japan five days before their tournament in late July.