Back in the groove, Rianne Malixi is back at the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) helm, but two others matched her four-under 67 to make it a crowded leaderboard at the start of the Rome Junior Classic in Rome, Georgia Friday.
Local bet Sara Im produced a five-birdie, one-bogey card at the Coosa Country Club course while Lydia Swan of Pennsylvania eagled the par-5 No. 4 then bucked two bogeys with four birdies to earn a shared view of the top in the 54-hole championship.
Using the lessons learned in last Tuesday’s US Women’s Open qualifying in California, Malixi played it cool all throughout and gunned down two birdies on each side of the par-71 layout, putting her on track for a follow-up to her playoff victory in the Thunderbird All Star in Arizona three weeks ago.
But the ICTSI-backed ace, who nailed her first AJGA win in the Se Ri Pak Desert Classic last year, is in for a tough grind in the last 36 holes with Im and Swan all geared up for a battle of shotmaking and wits and Thai Thanana Kotchasanmanee lurking at 68 and Alice Zhao from California also putting herself in contention with a solid 69.
“Good putting,” said the ICTSI-backed ace, 15, when asked where would she credit her solid performance. She finished with 29 putts in a big rebound to her four three-putt miscues that ruined her bid in the 36-hole US Women’s Open elims.
Also out to redeem herself from a final round meltdown in the PING Heather Classic, also in Arizona, two weeks ago, Malixi birdied the par-5 second hole then drilled in an eight-footer for another birdie on the par-3 No. 6. She gained another stroke on No. 12 then struck another solid tee-shot to within four feet on the par-3 17th to spike her auspicious start.
“I had few birdie chances but from long ranges,” added Malixi, who hit 10 fairways and 15 greens.
After the event, Malixi flies back home to join Lois Kaye Go and fellow ICTSI teammate Mafy Singson in their final buildup for the SEAG battle where they will try to keep the two crowns won by Bianca Pagdanganan (individual), Go and Abby Arevalo (team) in the 2019 edition of the regional biennial games at Luisita.