ANTIPOLO – Amateur Rianne Malixi turned the final round of the ICTSI Valley Golf Challenge into a victory walk here yesterday, completing a dominant 13-stroke triumph over Chihiro Ikeda while playing pressure-free after virtually sealing it all with a decisive second round 70 Thursday.
Malixi’s bogeys in the first two holes hardly flustered the 15-year-old rising star as her pro rivals all continued to struggle on the challenging Valley South and the national team spearhead buckled down to work and gunned down birdies on Nos. 5 and 12 before closing out with two more bogeys for a 74.
Her faltering windup likewise didn’t matter as Malixi showed she’s a cut above the rest, cruising to the easy win with a two-over 218 over 54 holes on superb shot-making, iron play and putting on a demanding course that bedeviled the games of the rest of the field.
Ikeda scrambled for a 77 marred by bogeys in the last four holes but still came out solo second with a 15-over 231, edging Harmie Constantino and Gretchen Villacencio for the top P101,250 purse.
Constantino, a two-leg winner, limped with a 79 while Villacencio bogeyed the closing par-3 hole for a second straight 76 as they finished joint third with amateur Mafy Singson at 232s.
Singson, who topped the Splendido Taal stop last May, also bounced back from a disastrous second round 81 with a 74.
Despite her runaway triumph, Malixi said she was far from being satisfied with her two-over total, citing her struggle off the mound that often sent her ball on bad lies or under the trees.
“It was hard – my tee shots almost always landed on a bad lie or under the trees. But I was able to make good recoveries with my iron game and putting. But I enjoyed the week,” said the ICTSI-backed ace, who notched her third Ladies Philippine Golf Tour trophy following her victories at Midlands to close out the 2021 season and at Luisita to kick off this year’s Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit.
“I learned a lot and it (output) tells me that I need to practice more,” said Malixi, whose latest exploit was two strokes short of her 15-stroke romp over Constantino in her first LPGT foray at Midlands last December and it came three shots off Princess Superal’s record 16-stroke winning margin over Cyna Rodriguez at Highlands in 2018.
Still, it was a convincing victory for a player who delivered the bronze medal for Team Philippines in the last SEA Games in Vietnam. The win also helped prime her up for a tough Thailand grind in the next two months, beginning with the 88th Singha Thailand Amateur Open on Oct. 18-21. She will next compete in the Singha Thailand Junior World Championship at the Royal Hua Hin Golf Club on Oct. 27-30 before clashing with the best of Asia-Pacific in the Women’s As-Pac Amateur Championship on Nov. 3-6 at the Siam Country Club in Chon Buri.
“Valley South is a tight course and I really need to hit it straight. But it inspires me to do better especially in the presence of the crowd,” added Malixi, who also ran away with another low amateur trophy.
The P750,000 championship actually looked headed for a tight finish after two-leg winner and reigning Order of Merit champion Constantino matched Malixi’s opening 74, Marvi Monsalve stood just a stroke back at 75 and Ikeda, winner of the previous LPGT leg at Eagle Ridge-Aoki last July, stalked them with a 76.
But Malixi, who has risen to No. 9 in the Rolex AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) tour and gained 47 spots to move to No. 265 in the world amateur rankings after a three-month campaign in the US, drove a wedge between her and her pursuers with a tournament-best two-under card in the second round.
That gave her an insurmountable 9-stroke bulge over Constantino and Monsalve, practically reducing the final 18 holes of the eighth leg of the circuit put up by ICTSI into a fight for runner-up finish.
But for Ikeda, it was all worth it as the Manila Southwoods ace rallied from joint fourth to snatch runner-up honors despite a five-over card. Not only did she pocket the top purse but also she did grab the overall lead in the OOM race with a current total earnings of P586,500.
Three-leg winner but absentee Chanelle Avaricio previously led the chase with P522,500 with three legs left at Riviera, Pradera Verde and Anvaya Cove.
Pamela Mariano carded a 76 for joint sixth at 233 with Martina Miñoza, who skied to a 79, while Sarah Ababa struggled for a 79 for a 236 and erstwhile contender Monsalve shot herself in the foot with a 84 and tumbled to ninth with 237.
Kristine Fleetwood wound up 10th with a 241 after an 84.