Rianne Malixi charged back from as many as five shots down with a closing birdie-binge, finishing with a seven-under 65 to pull within one off Julia Misemer of the US at the start of the Junior PGA Championships in Palos Park, Illinois Tuesday.
Malixi, gearing up for next week’s US Women’s Amateur at Chamber’s Bay in Washington, produced one big shot after another coming out of the turn at the Cog Hill Golf and Country Club’s Ravines layout, birdying Nos. 10 and 11 then stringing three-straight from No. 16 to spike a stirring 34-31 card.
Misemer led the assault at the par-72 course in mild conditions with a 64, anchoring her strong start on a frontside run of six birdies, including three straight from No. 1. Three more birdies in the first five holes at the back put her at nine-under but she failed to get up-and-down at the par-4 15th and missed a couple of chances in the last three holes and settled for an eight-under start.
But Malixi rallied from way back to put herself in strong contention for one the US most prestigious junior championships, complementing her impressive round with superb putting while pouncing on Misemer’s late mishap and matching the American’s blistering start with her own version of a splendid finish.
Yuka Saso won this event in Hartford, Connecticut in 2019, rallying from behind to beat American Jenson Castle, who went on to win the 2021 US Women’s Amateur crown.
The ICTSI-backed Malixi, coming off a semifinal setback in the Women’s Western Amateur Match Play in Northfield, also in Illinois, two weeks ago, tied for fifth in last year’s edition of the annual event won by Anna Davis, also of the US, at Valhalla Golf Club in Kentucky.
But her strong windup put her in the early mix of things although she needed to shrug off a shaky start of two bogeys against a birdie in the first five holes to get her bid going.
She hit back-to-back birdies from No. 6 and cashed in on the par-5 ninth to make the turn at 34, still four strokes behind Misemer, who birdied the first three holes, gained another stroke on No. 5 then picked up two more on Nos. 7 and 9 for a solid 30.
Misemer actually stretched her lead to five with birdies on Nos. 11, 13 and 14 against Malixi’s feats on Nos. 10 and 11 but the latter gained on the former’s rare miscue on No. 15 and on her scorching windup.
Angela Liu, also of the US, likewise put up a blazing start of five birdies, matched Misemer’s seven-under card with an eagle on No. 11 but bogeyed No. 13 to reel back. She, however, birdied the 17th to tie Malixi at second with a seven-under card.
Malixi’s flightmate Jaclyn LaHa also shone in mild conditions, finishing with a 66 while Japanese Nika Ito carded a 67 and six others, including Kati Li of the US and Thai Thanana Kotchasanmanee, turned in identical 68s at the par-72 layout.