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LPGT: Constantino, Malixi dispute Villamor Match Play crown

Harmie Constantino trampled Marvi Monsalve with a workmanlike 6&4 triumph while a steady Rianne Malixi hammered out a 3&2 decision over Chihiro Ikeda as they forged a showdown for the ICTSI Villamor Match Play crown in Pasay City on Thursday.

The second-ranked Constantino, reaching peak form, dominated the No. 6 Monsalve with a superb all-around performance at the Villamor Golf Club as she logged her most lopsided victory after grinding out a tough 1-up escape over Mafy Singson in the first round and pulling off a 3&1 win over Sunshine Baraquiel in Wednesday’s quarterfinals of the novel championship highlighting the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour season.

“I think I made a lot of putts and had a lot of good saves,” said Constantino, who ruled the final leg of this year’s 11-stage LPGT at Pradera Verde last month.

In contrast, Malixi three-putted No. 9 that enabled Ikeda to force an all-square match but the top amateur hit a clutch birdie on the 13th and went on to win two more holes to thwart her top-seeded rival via the same scoreline she disposed of Pamela Mariano and Gretchen Villacencio in the first two days.

“My ball striking was better than yesterday. But I struggled in numbers, especially in between clubs. I just can’t hit them,” said Malixi.

“The turning point was on No. 13. After I birdied it, I knew I had to just make pars (to win),” said the rising 15-year-old star from the ICTSI golf stable, who edged multi-titled Princess Superal by one to rule the season-opening leg at Luisita last March.

Constantino and Malixi slug it out for the title worth P280,000 for the pro at 9:10 a.m. with Ikeda and Monsalve battling for third at 8:30 a.m.

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Constantino actually struggled with her long game but it hardly mattered as Monsalve, who beat Lucy Landicho, 3&2, and edged Florence Bisera, 1-up, to barge into the semis, likewise groped for form trying to measure up with her rival’s level of play.

“My drives weren’t really going where I wanted them to go,” said Constantino, who marked her pro debut with two victories, both at Eagle Ridge-Aoki, last year.

But after a string of failed bids this year, she saved her best for last, nipping three-leg winner Chanelle Avaricio by one to close out the LPGT season on a triumphant note.

She, however, emphasized the need for her to crank up her long game and sharpen her iron play to give her campaign a resounding finish.

“I think I should be hitting more greens and try to hit it longer,” said Constantino.

With Malixi moving on the cusp of another victory that would cap a prolific season, Constantino will indeed need to dish out her best to stop arguably the best player on the tour this year.

Winning all her three stints in the pro circuit, spiked by a huge 13-stroke triumph over Ikeda at Valley Golf last Sept., Malixi moved a win away from wrapping up a productive season that also saw her win two AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) events in the US, and the Thailand Junior World Championship.

Malixi also finished second in the tough Thailand Amateur Open and tied for third in the recent Women’s Amateur Asia Pacific Championship.

That should make her a worthy rival to Constantino, who honed her talent and skills here at the tight, tree-lined military layout.

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Against Constantino, Malixi said she would need to focus on her speed and putting, adding: “And try to adjust on my club positions.”

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