Thanana Kotchasanmanee sizzled early and dominated the Sun ‘N Lake layout with a seven-under 65, scuttling another Rianne Malixi bid for a crown in the Citrus Golf Trail Ladies Invitational in Sebring, Florida Friday.
Kotchasanmanee produced a couple of three-birdie sprees in the first nine holes, turning a three-stroke deficit into a one-shot lead and the Thai stayed in control the rest of the way on her way to completing a triumphant comeback for a two-stroke victory over the Filipina ace on a 284 total.
Malixi didn’t fare badly with a frontside 34 but a slew of flubbed birdie chances on both sides of the par-72 layout ruined her drive for a seventh championship in the season. She bounced back strong from a missed green miscue on No. 3 with four birdies in a seven-hole stretch from No. 4 to pull within one off Kotchasanmanee, but failed to match the latter’s clutch birdie on No. 11 and settled for a 70 and a 286.
“I played fine today (Friday). I know that I had put up a good fight the first nine holes but the opponent did better,” said Malixi, who birdied Nos. 4 and 5 after dropping a stroke on the third and rolled in an eight-footer on the seventh to hold sway.
But Kotchasanmanee, who birdied No. 3 for a two-shot swing then matched Malixi’s birdies in the next two, chipped in for birdie on No. 7 to fuel another three-birdie run, tieing the latter at five-under overall on the eighth and seizing the lead on the next as Malixi’s missed back-to-back birdie opportunities.
“I gave a lot of my putts really good chances but not enough to clinch the title,” said Malixi, whose campaign is supported by ICTSI. “It’s still a fun week and knowing that I played consistently the past three days, this is a good start for this trip.”
She will next play in the Women’s Orlando International Amateur on Jan. 4-6 at the Orange Country National then heads to the Annika Invitational on Jan. 15-17 at the Eagle Creek Golf Club, also in Orlando.