TAGAYTAY—Rianne Malixi recoiled as often as she tripped, besting two-leg winner Harmie Constantino with a kind of game honed and sharpened by her stints overseas as she produced a 73 to storm ahead by three over fellow amateur Laurea Duque and Sunshine Baraquiel at the start of the ICTSI Midlands Ladies Classic here, Wednesday.
While Constantino and the rest of the pros stumbled and fell in hot, windy conditions, Malixi proved so composed and focused, bouncing back strong from each miscue while bucking her struggle with her short irons and putting to put up a 37-36 marred by a bogey on the closing par-5 hole of Midlands.
But that hardly mattered in a day when four leg winners poised themselves for a spirited battle for top honors in separate twosomes in the season-ending event of the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour halted by two suspensions due to a surge in coronavirus cases in NCR Plus in March and July.
But Constantino, who swept the Eagle Ridge-Aoki legs last March and last month, and first-time winners Baraquiel (Highlands), Chanelle Avaricio (Riviera-Couples), and Daniella Uy (Riviera-Langer) all wavered in difficult scoring conditions, enabling the 14-year-old Malixi to steal the show in the early going of the 54-hole championship put up by ICTSI.
Duque, the low amateur at Eagle Ridge-Aoki last March, also bogeyed the last hole for a 76 to slip to joint second with Baraquiel, who overcame a rough start to save a 39-37, while Daniella Uy turned in 77, and Constantino failed to rebound from a quadruple bogey on the tricky par-3 No. 3 and ended up with a 79 for a share of fifth with Marvi Monsalve and Apple Fudolin.
Chanelle Avaricio also reeled from a triple bogey on No. 3 and a double-bogey on the next, groping for a 42-38 marked by four birdies but marred by seven bogeys, including four straight from No. 11.
Given her form and level of confidence, Malixi hardly expressed surprise over her round that stood out on a challenging day right in her first LPGT sortie.
“It’s a wonderful experience. Playing with the pros is a great challenge for me as an amateur,” said Malixi, who actually kicked off her campaign with a birdie on the first hole.
But bogeys on Nos. 3 and 5 stymied her charge although she rebounded with a birdie on No. 6, dropped another stroke on the next but snapped a three-par game with another birdie on No. 11 to draw level par.
The 2020 national stroke play champion parred the next six but came up short on her shots on the long finishing hole and holed out with another bogey.
“I kind of struggle with my short game and putting although I was able to manage myself in a very great way. So, I’m very happy,” added Malixi, who had earlier stints in the PXG Women’s Match Play, a pro event, the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific, and the Rolex Tournament of Champions, among others.
To stay ahead and hopefully essay a Cinderella finish, Malixi said she has “to stay patient and play with more confidence” while stressing the need to work on her putts in anticipation of the pros’ fightback in the next two rounds of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
But another young lass assumed the early challenger’s role as Duque submitted a four-over card to tie Baraquiel, who stumbled with double bogeys on Nos. 1 and 3 in launching her drive for a sweep the two-leg Tagaytay swing of the circuit held under bubble setup.
“I made few mistakes but that’s okay, knowing I can do better tomorrow,” said Duque, who proved the steadiest with a one-birdie, one-bogey card after 9 holes. She actually tied Malixi at level par after 11 holes but dropped off the lead with a double-bogey on No. 12 and finished with three bogeys against a birdie in the last six holes. “The course is playing really, really tough so anything can happen.”
Baraquiel also hopes to build on her big recovery to fuel her drive for another crown.
“I had a pretty rough start – two double bogeys in three holes,” rued the lady pilot, who struck back from those miscues with birdies on Nos. 4 and 6 but yielded strokes on Nos. 7 and 13 before trading a birdie on No. 15 with a bogey on the 17th.
“I just tried to hit my targets because the wind is really strong. I hit the ball well but missed a lot of greens, good thing my short game worked for me,” she added.