Min Wook Gwon and Rianne Malixi squandered big leads under pressure but recovered in the playoff to rally past Japanese Atsushi Ueda and Abby Arevalo, respectively, and crown themselves the National Stroke Play champions at Riviera’s Langer course in Silang, Cavite yesterday.
Just when they thought they had heard the last of their rivals after seizing firm control through 54 holes, Gwon and Malixi found Atsushi and Arevalo back in the hunt with one big shot after another to claw back from seven and three strokes down, respectively. Both, however, failed to cling on after grabbing the lead in the pressure-packed stretch, paving the way for a pair of sudden deaths.
But while Gwon, who limped with a 79 in regulation to finish at 295, took just one sudden death hole to frustrate Ueda, who missed clinching it with a last-hole bogey for a 72, Malixi needed three extra holes to finish off Arevalo on a par-bogey result like in the men’s finals, both on No. 1.
Malixi and Arevalo, who finished tied at 287 after 73 and 70, respectively, matched pars in the first two playoff holes on Nos. 1 and 18 but after the former dumped her approach shot in the greenside bunker in their third trip in the par-4 opening hole in the day, the latter overshot the green and into deep roughs and missed a par-saving putt from eight feet.
In contrast, the 12-year-old Malixi kept her composure and blasted to within six feet and made the putt to snare the victory, becoming the youngest winner in what used to the Philippine Amateur Golf Championship, the kickoff leg of the PLDT Group National Amateur Tour.
“I’m speechless, but this is memorable win for me, having been able play with the SEA Games gold medalist and other top players and have fun with them,” said Malixi, referring to Arevalo, who formed part of the gold medal winning squad with individual gold medalist and Lois Kaye Go in the recent SEA Games at Luisita.
Arevalo, recalling the form that netted her a victory in the pro Ladies Phl Golf Tour here in 2017, overcame a three-stroke deficit right at the front with a 33 as Malixi fumbled with a 37. The San Jose State U product then took the first two holes at the back to go 3-up but yielded the 13th and Malixi tied it up on a birdie-bogey exchange on the next.
Arevalo dropped by one again with another bogey on No. 16 but parred the last then watched her rival muff her own par bid to force a playoff in the event sponsored by the MVP Sports Foundation and backed by Cignal, Metro Pacific Investments and Summit Ridge as official hotel.
Bernice Ilas also charged back with a 70 to snatch third place at 300 while last year’s champion Go carded a 74 for fourth at 301 followed by Korean Kim Seo Yun (75-303), Junia Gabasa (78-306) and Nicole Abelar and Laurea Duque, who shared seventh place at 308 after 76 and 82, respectively.
Bracing for a trouble-free finish, Gwon even padded his lead to eight with a birdie on the first hole but Ueda gained on a two-shot swing (birdie-bogey) on the par-3 No. 4, moved to within five on the next and pounced on the Korean’s bogeys in the last two to threaten within three at the turn.
Bogeys by Gwon on Nos. 10 and 11 pulled the Japanese within one but the former hiked his lead to two on a Ueda bogey on No. 12. But another two-shot swing on No. 13 enabled Ueda to tie Gwon at nine-over overall before the lead changed hands in the last five holes with Ueda missing completing his incredible comeback with a bogey on the last, setting the stage for another playoff finish after Japanese Gen Nagai beat Thai ace Vanchai Luangnitikul on the second extra hole last year.
Aidric Chan carded a 72 to finish third at 297 while SEA Games bronze medal teammate Sean Ramos ended up fourth at 300 after a 74 with Japanese Kyosuke Yoshida placing fifth with a 72 for a 301.
Nagai turned in his best round of 73 after a pair of 77s and a 75 and wound up joint sixth at 302 with Malaysian Marcus Lim, who fired the day’s best 71, with Elee Bisera and National Doubles winner Ryan Monsalve sharing eighth place at 303 after 75 and 77, respectively.