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Saso reaches semis

The Philippines’ Yuka Saso survived a nerve-wracking quarterfinal duel Friday with Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, winning their match play encounter, 1- up, to advance to the semifinals of the prestigious US Women’s Amateur Championship at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pennsylvania.

Saso, at 15 the youngest player in the field, played with remarkable maturity in posting her fourth match play encounter in this event that has produced many future LPGA stars.

“I feel really great,” said Saso. “I’m thankful and I’m looking forward to the next couple days.”

She will meet Virginia Elena Carta of Italy, the reigning NCAA individual champion, who beat Maria Torres of Puerto Rico, 3 and 1.

The other semifinalists will pit South Korea’s Eun Jeong Seong against Mathilda Cappeliez of France. This will mark the first time since 1910 that no American made it to the semifinals.

Seong beat her countrywoman and friend Andrea Lee, 1-up, while Cappeliez eliminated Hannah Green of Australia in 19 holes after being 3 down after 13 holes.

Saso, one of the country’s rising female stars, who is half Japanese, had to sink a five-foot knee-knocker for par on the final hole to stop Hataoka, 17, who birdied the 17th hole to narrow her deficit to just one.

On the final hole, she had 25-footer for birdie to extend the match, but missed. Saso then lined up her par putt from five feet after a poor pitch and knocked it in.

It was a solid finish for Saso who trailed by one after 11 holes. But she won three holes thereafter and took a 2-up lead going to the 17th hole.

The key perhaps was the 14th hole where Saso holed out from about 10 yards off the green for birdie to go 1-up. She went 2-up with another birdie on the 15th.

By making the semifinals, Saso and the three others in the last four earned exemptions to four major professional championships – the US Women’s Open, the Women’s British Open, the ANA Inspiration and the Evian Championship. (Ding Marcelo)