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Malixi, 2 other Pinays kick off US Women's Amateur golf drive

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Malixi, 2 other Pinays kick off US Women's Amateur golf drive
Rianne Malixi

MANILA, Philippines – Despite coming up short in the Girls Junior PGA Championship, Rianne Malixi is keeping a light and positive attitude as she plunges into action in the US Women’s Amateur beginning Monday (Tuesday, Manila time) at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington.

“I have a good feeling heading to this event,” Malixi told Philstar.com. “My performance in the Junior PGA boosted my confidence level. I’ll be playing my best at this event.”

So do the rest of the 156 starting field made up of the best female amateur golfers in the world, headed by defending champion Jensen Castle, a senior at Kentucky, who went on a historic run last year after clinching one of the last two slots in a 12-player playoff after the 36-hole stroke play elims, winning it all as the 63rd seed.

Also tipped to contend for this year’s crown are US Girls’ Junior champions Rose Zhang (2022), Lei Ye (2019) and Erica Shepherd (2017), along with Megha Ganne, Tsubasa Kajitani, Rachel Heck, Emilia Migliaccio, Brooke Matthews, Kennedy Swann and Kaitlyn Schroeder.

The ICTSI-backed Malixi lost by two to Schroeder on a two-shot swing on the final hole in last week’s Junior PGA at Cog Hill in Illinois. She stalked the leaders in all three days then seized control midway in the final round but sputtered at the back.

A birdie on No. 16 tied her with Schroeder, who, however, birdied the 18th in a flight ahead and the young Filipina star bogeyed the closing hole after an unsuccessful attempt to force a playoff.

Still, the two-time American Junior Golf Association tour winner and twice champion on the ladies pro circuit back home is unperturbed by the sorry setback and is in fact feeling good about her chances as she mixes it up with Americans Lauren Lehigh and Brooke Biermann in the 8:28 a.m. flight at the backside of Chambers Bay, which features a walking path that meanders through the course.

The par-73 layout, which has gone through a series of changes since staging the 2015 US Open, is expected to test the field’s length and strength with three par-5s featured on the first nine, and mental toughness with its tricky surface with the wind also expected to come into play in most holes.

Two other Pinays are also in the hunt for one of the biggest prizes in women’s amateur golf with Nicole Abelar drawing an 8:17 a.m. start, also on the first hole, with Aliea Clark and Kaleiya Romero, both of the US, and Tomi Arejola teeing off at 8:20 a.m. with locals Claire Wright and Emily Dunlap.

The top 64 after the 36-hole stroke play elims will advance to the knockout phase where play shifts to match play.

Malixi finished at No. 58 last year then worked her way up to trounce two players ranked higher than her but fell short of her rally from three holes down in the last four with birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 and lost by one to Aussie Emily Majar.

Toughened up by a series of stints in top junior and amateur tournaments, the 15-year-old Malixi expects to make it past the qualifiers and hopes for the best in a pressure-packed knockout phase where talent and skills won't be enough to anchor one's title drive but also getting the right breaks.

GOLF

RIANNE MALIXI

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