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Rianne opens with 78 in Florida


Rianne Malixi stepped on the first tee in freezing conditions and struggled with a six-over-par 78 at the start of the Citrus Golf Trail Ladies Invitational at the Sun ‘N Lake course in Sebring, Florida Tuesday.

“It’s like the winds were coming off the freezer,” the 15-year-old phenom told her father Roy.

Malixi left the country on Christmas Eve for her first tournament in the 2023 season.

She arrived in Florida before the stroke of midnight on the 25th and played only one practice round in a course she was playing for the first time.

Malixi teed off on the fifth hole and made par following a shotgun start, birdied 7, and bogeyed 10. She hit the flag on her approach shot on the next for par and missed a long birdie try on 12.

After a regulation par on the par-3 13th, Malixi dropped two strokes on the next and bogeyed 16 and 17. She finished with bogeys on 1 and 3.

“She didn’t play well — jetlag, weather and non-familiarity (with the course) affected her game,” said Malixi’s father Roy. “She played while her body and mind clock was on sleep mode. I hope she would adjust and acclimatize in the second round.”

Vanessa Zhang moved on top of the leaderboard on 69, one shot ahead of Angela Zhang with Angela Cai and Hailey Han tied for third place on 72s.

The 72-hole, no-cut tournament features some of the world’s rising stars.

Now ranked No. 159 in the world following her runner-up finish in the Malaysian Amateur Open two weeks ago, Malixi is also set to play two more tournaments in her bid to improve her ranking — the Orlando International Amateur on 4 to 6 January at the Orange Country National and the Annika Invitational on 15 to 17 January at the Eagle Creek Golf Club also in Florida.

The ICTSI-sponsored golfer coming off a superb season where she collected three victories in the Ladies Philippine Golf Tour and finished in the Top 3 in her last seven amateur tournaments.

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