By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Rianne Malixi captured the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Thunderbird All-Star title Sunday after banging in a 3-footer for par on the third playoff hole in Phoenix, Arizona.
Malixi bungled the chance of clinching the title in regulation – no thanks to three-putt miscue on the 54th hole for a 70 but showed steely resolve as the expected showdown with Nikki Oh and Scarlet Schremmer dragged on.
Oh bowed out of contention in the first extra hole as she managed only a par while both Malixi and Schremmer made birdies.
Malixi and Schremmer then parred the 11th – their second playoff hole – but luck was on the side of the Filipina prodigy on the third extra hole, drilling in a pressure-packed 3-footter.
To her dismay, Schremmer wilted under pressure, missing her target from just two-and-a-half feet.
Malixi, Schremmer and Oh finished the regulation with identical nine-under-par 207, with the Filipina prodigy posting a 2-under 70 in the fourth and final round.
She closed the round with five birdies against three bogeys.
Malixi had earlier rounds of 72, 69 and 68.
“It’s a great warm-up for me for next week’s AJGA event,” said the 15-year-old Malixi, who humbled the pros back home twice and dominated the SEA Games qualifying the last four months.
It was the ICTSI-backed shotmaker’s second AJGA title following her wire-to-wire triumph in the Se Ri Pak Desert Junior last year with her latest exploit sure to fire her up all the more in the Ping Heather Farr Classic unfolding Thursday at the Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, also in Arizona.