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All eyes on Malixi in SEA Games golf
VINH PHUC, Vietnam. – All eyes will be on young sensation Rianne Malixi and the other members of the national women’s golf squad that tees off Friday at the Heron Lake Course here, well-armed in their bid to retain the team and individual crowns in the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games.
Malixi, the 15-year-old spearhead of Team ICTSI, is thrilled more than anxious playing in what she considers as her biggest tournament so far, geared up to slug it out with the likes of Thais Narkitta Wongthaveelap, a three-time Thai LPGA Tour winner; Pimkwan Chukaew, a King Rama VII Cup titlist; and fellow 15-year-old Ella Galitsky for the coveted gold.
Lois Kaye Go, a member of the 2019 gold medal-winning squad, and Mafy Singson complete the women’s team billed as one of the teams to beat.
Gone from the squad are Bianca Pagdanganan, who bagged the individual gold in 2019, and Abby Arevalo.
Carrying the cudgels for the men’s squad, which is out to improve on the bronze medal finish of another squad in the Philippine SEA Games, are Jet Hernandez, Jed Dy, Kristoffer Arevalo and Gab Manotoc, who are all primed-up for a face-off with the fancied Thai squad led by the celebrated Ratchanon Chantananuwat, who at 15 became the youngest winner on the Asian Tour when he topped the inaugural Asian Mixed Cup in Siam last month.
“We believe all are motivated intrinsically by being their best versions. This is the challenge we have given them – to be better every day, in all aspects both on and off the course,” said Miko Alejandro, coach of the national women’s squad.
“I think it’s not necessarily pressuring but more inspiration to the players. We use these stories to remind us we are capable. We understand that this is a brand-new opportunity to win gold medals for the country,” Alejandro added.
Malixi will go into battle oozing with confidence, coming off a string of victories, including a couple of feats in the local pro circuit and one in the American Junior Golf Association.
“It will be exciting. I’ll play my best for the team,” said Malixi. “This is the biggest for me so far, playing not for myself but for our country. By playing my best, it’s like I’m paying a tribute to our flag. I’m looking forward to hearing our national anthem at the end of the tournament.
“I’m ready for the tournament. I hope everyone will pray for the success not only for our team but for the entire delegation,” she added.
Host Vietnam is out to spoil the highly-anticipated Philippines-Thailand duel for the gold, along with Malaysia and Singapore, but the perennial regional rivals are expected to take center stage just the same with their depth and talent in both sides of the 54-hole tournament.
“I think this event is a little different from the typical tournaments we are used to because of the team aspect. But at the same time, it is also an added motivation to be playing for each other and the country. It’s one of the greatest honors to be representing the country and this drives us,” said Alejandro.
“Everyone is in high spirits and individual games are trending in the right direction. We’ve been working hard in our preparation but making sure we also don’t forget to enjoy every moment. All players can’t wait to tee it up Friday,” he added.