MANILA, Philippines – While some would wonder how a 14-year-old could dominate such a cutthroat competition like a national team qualifier, one may look at Rianne Malixi's last exploit to understand why.
She didn't only beat the country's top pros, but also humbled them, posting a near-record 15-shot romp in the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour at Midlands last December.
She was actually all set to defend the national stroke play crown she won via playoff as a 12-year-old campaigner in 2020 but the event was called off on the eve of its staging due to the spike of COVID-19 cases in the NCR Plus last January.
She used the break to train and toughen up under swing coach Norman Sto. Domingo, setting her sights for the lone berth being disputed in the national team elims for the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam in May.
“I’ve been practicing a lot for this two-week event. And it's been a competitive (first) week,” said Malixi of her stint in the first half of the grueling 8-round elims at the exacting Luisita Golf and Country Club course although the results might have otherwise showed. “I played in great heat and composing myself in this hot climate was my main focus.”
Malixi has built a huge 12-stroke lead over fellow ICTSI players Arnie Taguines and Mafy Singson heading to the last half of the qualifiers this weekend, back at the Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed course in Tarlac.
Actually, she hardly sizzled with an opening 73 that however proved enough to net her a one-stroke lead over Laurea Duque and Sunshine Zhang. But her second round 71 put her seven strokes clear of Singson then doubled it up with another 73 in the third round held in the same day of the second.
She fumbled with a 77 in the fourth round for a 294 aggregate but her rivals also failed to at least salvage a par with Arnie Taguines carding a best 74 and Singson settling for a 75 for joint second at 306.
Zhang fell too far behind at 313 after an 80 while Duque hardly recovered with a 78 for a 317 heading to the final four rounds back at the challenging, hazard-laden Luisita layout.
“We’ll be playing Luisita again, so I expect very humid conditions,” said Malixi. "But this week I’ll be practicing lightly, focusing more on my recovery before the 36-hole game on Friday,” she said.
Unlike last week, the surviving eight-player field will play 36 holes in the first round with the last two 36 holes set over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Jet Hernandez is also all primed up for the first of two SEAG slots offered in men’s play as the former Junior World campaigner, with a 290 total, likewise built a 12-stroke lead over Edward Dy and Masaichi Otake, who pooled identical 302s and are bracing for a spirited battle for the other berth along Miguel Ilas (303) and brothers Ivan and Ryan Monsalve, who both assembled 304s, with Kristoffer Arevalo another stroke back at 305 and Shinichi Suzuki and Gab Manotoc with identical 307s.
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