Gwon, Malixi top nat’l stroke play

MIN WOOK Gwon and Rianne Malixi squandered big leads under pressure but recovered in the playoff to rally past Japanese Atsushi Ueda and Abby Arevalo, respectively, and crown themselves the National Stroke Play champions at Riviera’s Langer course in Silang, Cavite on Jan. 10, 2020.

Just when they thought they had heard the last of their rivals after seizing firm control through 54 holes, Gwon and Malixi found Atsushi and Arevalo back in the hunt with one big shot after another to claw back from seven and three strokes down, respectively. Both, however, failed to cling on after grabbing the lead in the pressure-packed stretch, paving the way for a pair of sudden deaths.

But while Gwon, who limped with a 79 in regulation to finish at 295, took just one sudden death hole to frustrate Ueda, who missed clinching it with a last-hole bogey for a 72, Malixi needed three extra holes to finish off Arevalo on a par-bogey result like in the men’s finals, both on No. 1.

Malixi and Arevalo, who finished tied at 287 after 73 and 70, respectively, matched pars in the first two playoff holes on Nos. 1 and 18 but after the former dumped her approach shot in the greenside bunker in their third trip in the par-4 opening hole in the day, the latter overshot the green and into deep roughs and missed a par-saving putt from eight feet.

In contrast, the 12-year-old Malixi kept her composure and blasted to within six feet and made the putt to snare the victory, becoming the youngest winner in what used to the Philippine Amateur Golf Championship, the kickoff leg of the PLDT Group National Amateur Tour.

“I’m speechless, but this is memorable win for me, having been able to play with the SEA Games gold medalist and other top players and have fun with them,” said Malixi, referring to Arevalo, who formed part of the gold medal winning squad with individual gold medalist and Lois Kaye Go in the recent Southeast Asian Games at Luisita.

Arevalo, recalling the form that netted her a victory in the pro Ladies Phl Golf Tour here in 2017, overcame a three-stroke deficit right at the front with a 33 as Malixi fumbled with a 37. The San Jose State U product then took the first two holes at the back to go 3-up but yielded the 13th and Malixi tied it up on a birdie-bogey exchange on the next.

Arevalo dropped by one again with another bogey on No. 16 but parred the last then watched her rival muff her own par bid to force a playoff in the event. (PR)