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Depleted Pinoy golfers swing into action

THE Philippines’ Rianne Malixi is brimming with confidence. | ELSA/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

HANGZHOU, China —Rianne Malixi will bank on an intensive buildup for the Asian Games as she and Lois Kaye Go launch their drive in women’s golf in the 19th Asian Games at the West Lake International Golf Country Club in Xihu District Thursday.

The country’s bid to defend the individual and team gold medal suffered a snag after the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee denied an appeal to include Chanelle Avaricio in place of Princess Superal.

The Philippines found itself with no other recourse but to vie in the three-to-play, two-to-count format with only Malixi and Go.

But Malixi and Go remain upbeat about their chances in the individual competitions bannered by Chinese Yin Ruoning, who held the world’s top ranking for two consecutive weeks before yielding it to American Lilia Vu this week.

Still, Yin, who edged Yuka Saso by one to score a major breakthrough in the Women’s Professional Golfers Association Championship last June, remains the marked player for the gold, along with India’s Avani Prashanth, Saki Baba and Mizuki Hashimoto of Japan and Thais Eila Galitsky, Patcharajutar Kongkraphan and Arpichaya Yubol.

But the focus will be on a crack Korean squad seeking to regain the team gold it last won in 2010 in Guangzhou, its fourth in the last eight Asian Games.

The Koreans also swept the individual gold medals for three straight Asiad staging from 2006 in Doha, to Guangzhou to 2014 in Incheon.

Saso broke that streak with a gripping come-from-behind victory in Jakarta in 2018 then, with Bianca Pagdanganan, who took the individual bronze, and Go steered the country to the team gold.

But Saso has since opted for Japanese citizenship months after winning the US Women’s Open in 2021 while Pagdanganan is focusing on regaining her Ladies PGA card.

Superal would have been a key addition to the team but the first Philippine-born player to win a US Golf Association-sanctioned event, the US Girls’ Junior in 2014, begged off due to conflict in schedule with her Japan Step Up Tour campaign.

But with the International Container Terminal Services Inc.-backed Malixi, now back on No. 75 in the women’s amateur world ranking, in top form and Go, from Cebu, continuing to improve her all-around game, things are looking up for Team PH despite the drawback in team composition.

“Okay naman ang preparasyon niya ngayon,” said Malixi’s father Roy.

Though she missed matching Superal’s US Girls’ Junior feat with a runner-up finish in Colorado last July, the setback only made Malixi hungrier and she expects to start out strong in an attempt to build the needed confidence and momentum for her medal drive in the four-day tournament.

Meanwhile, the men’s team of Clyde Mondilla and Ira Alido, along with amateurs Aidric Chan and Carl Corpus, also faces a formidable set of rivals whose teams are bannered by some of the world’s leading pros, led by South Korea’s Sungjae The world No. 27 Im, a former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year and a two-time PGA Tour winner.

I’m also tied for second in the 2020 US Masters.

Others in the told are world No. 40 Si Woo Kim, also from Korea, India’s Anirban Lahiri, SSP Chawrasia and Shubankar Sharma, Chinese We Shun and Wenyi Ding, and Thais Asian Tour campaigners Poom Saksansin, Danthai Boonma and Phachara Kongwhatmai.

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