Malixi has had a glittering amateur career. Rianne, only 15 years old, recently finished tied for third in the Women’s Asia Pacific Amateur Championship in Pattaya, Thailand. The WAAC is a big deal in these parts. Conducted by the Royal and Ancient Golf Association, it is perhaps the most prestigious title in the region.
Malixi shot 69, 70, 70 and 72 at the Siam Country Club for a -7 total of 281, just four off the mark of champion Huang Ting-Hsuan of Taiwan.
To finish this high in an elite field of over 80 top amateurs from Korea, Thailand, Japan, Australia, and more, is pretty sick.
A week before that Malixi had triumphed in the Singha Thailand Junior World Championship, also in Thailand. Her total of three-under 285 denied local fans the crown. Just before this event she had missed out on capturing the Thai Amateur Championship, losing in a playoff with Natthakritta Vongtaveelap when the Thai birdied the first hole. At the moment, she is in a wildly rich vein of form even by her standards. She has staked her claim as an elite amateur in the Asia Pacific region.
Malixi has won in the States as well, lifting the trophy at the Se Ri Pak Desert Junior last year. It was also there where she reached the round of 32 in the extremely competitive USGA U.S. Girls Junior Championship, losing 4&3 in her match to Rose Zhang. No shame in that, since Zhang was the world number one ranked amateur at the time, and won the whole thing, beating her opponent by an even bigger margin in the final.
She has matched up well against seasoned pros. Even though Malixi is an amateur, she does enter local pro events in the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour. She has won three times, and sometimes it’s not even close.
Last September she scored two-over 218 over three rounds in the ICTSI Valley Classic. That was a full 13 strokes better than the runner up. Amazingly, that is not even her biggest margin of victory in that tour. Last December she lapped the field in the Tagaytay Midlands Tour stop, winning by an astonishing 15 shots.
Malixi had a much tougher time in her second LPGT crown, edging Princess Superal by a stroke last March in Luisita. Superal went on to win a Ladies Asian Tour event in Indonesia, outplaying world number four Lydia Ko. So beating Superal is an accomplishment in itself.
The only downside to all of these wins in pro events? Rianne, as an amateur, cannot accept a single centavo in prize money.
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She comes from the same club as Yuka Saso. Malixi plays out of Royal Northwoods in San Rafael, Bulacan. It’s a somewhat obscure semi-private facility that even many avid golfers have never played nor heard of. But it’s a tough layout that also counts Yuka Saso as a member.
Must be something in the water there that produces champions.
Malixi is money in her short game. Check out these chip-ins caught on video. The first is from the SEA Games where she helped the Philippines win bronze.
Short game, defined as accuracy and control near the green, is a Filipino specialty. Dottie Ardina, one of three Filipinas in the LPGA, and Superal are both renowned for their short games. Rianne is continuing that trend.
It’s hard to say yet if Rianne is a sure thing to be an LPGA star. Although she is one of Southeast Asia’s top young players, it is difficult to anoint her as the next Yuka Saso just yet. The golf world, and the sports world as whole, is littered with stories of prodigiously talented phenoms who just don’t quite make it to the upper echelons. Sometimes it’s due to injuries, loss of form, loss of interest, or a combination of all.
Her father, Roy, is a pretty tall dude. I’m hoping that Rianne follows those genes and gets one more growth spurt. If she grows a bit taller she can lengthen the arc of her swing and pick up some valuable ball speed without needing to swing much harder.
At her age a lot can still happen. But it’s apparent that among the current crop of amateur lady Pinay golfers, she has the best chance of making it to the LPGA.
Rianne has a fantastic mental game. Golf requires you to keep your emotions in check, and having followed Rianne in her final rounds of two of her wins, I can say she does a fantastic job of doing that. I have seen her rebound from a silly three putt to a birdie soon after.
In the Valley tournament there was another player, a pro in contention, who complained to me about the course being too penal. I heard nothing of the sort from Malixi, who just said she enjoyed the layout. She keeps it positive and that will hold her in good stead going forward.
She loves her dogs. Rianne and her sister own a pair of standard poodles named Cotton and Churros. She calls them her “favorite playmates,” and says they help a lot in her de-stressing.
She also has a surprising affinity for 80s music.
Rianne plans on playing collegiate golf in the States. Malixi says she is eschewing the route taken by Saso, who turned pro after her junior career, and is planning to play collegiate golf in the USA. Her preferred course is sports psychology.
We don’t know yet where she will study, but for sure the universities will be lining up to get her commitment.
(Photo by Bob Guerrero)