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Malixi trails Thai, Taiwanese by 3

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF R&A Rianne Malixi keeps an eye on the leaders after the first round of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific on Thursday in Pattaya, Thailand.

Rianne Malixi banked on a solid backside start to card a 70 as she trailed Thais Eila Galitsky and Navaporn Soontreeyapas and Chun-Wei Wu from Chinese-Taipei by three after 18 holes of the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific Championship at the Siam Country Club in Pattaya, Thailand Thursday.

Galitsky bucked tough conditions in a late start, turning in a bogey-free round to set her title-retention drive in motion. She highlighted her 33-34 card with five birdies in a seven-hole stretch from No. 6.

Malixi sizzled with back-to-back birdies from No. 10 where she teed off with Korean world No. 4 Minsol Kim and India’s Avani Prashanth then birdied the par-5 18th to go three-under and keep Soontreeyapas and Wu within sight. But she bogeyed No. 3 against a run of pars as she turned in a 37-33 to slip to joint 12th with 13 others, including Kim, who put in a 36-34 card.

But Soontreeyapas took the spotlight in the opener of the sixth edition of the region’s premier championship, spiking her 33-34 round with an ace on the 150-yard No. 7.

She gunned down five birdies against two bogeys to share the lead with Wu and Galitsky.

“I’m so excited and it’s very good,” Soontreeyapas said of her fiery start.

“Yeah, I think I can win,” added Soontreeyapas, seeking to become the third Thai to win the coveted crown after Atthaya Thitikul, who ruled the inaugural staging in 2018 and Galitsky.

Wu matched the Thai’s 67 with late birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 for a 34-34 as they wrested a one-stroke lead over Pimpisa Rubrong, also from Thailand, Chinese Yahui Zhang, Kiwi Amy Im, Japanese Hinano Muguruma, Aussie Justice Bosio, and Prashanth, who all carded 68s.

Korean Seojin Park shot a 69 for joint 10th Malaysian Zi Yu Foong, who fashioned out a 35-34 round.

Alethea Gaccion also posted a fine start in the event which stakes invitations to three major championships to the winner, carding a 71 for a share of 26th, that included Shinchi and six others.

A grand finalist in last year’s Junior Philippine Golf Tour inaugurals, Gaccion showcased a balanced round, mixing two birdies with the same number of bogeys at the front then mirrored Malixi’s birdie-birdie feat from No. 10.

But she dropped shots on Nos. 13 and 15 before recovering at the finish with a birdie on No. 17 to save a 36-35.

Grace Quintanilla blew a two-under backside card with bogeys on Nos. 3, 5 and 6 on her way home in one of the late flights but birdied the par-5 No. 8 to salvage a 72 and a share of 33rd.

Anya Cedo, however, wavered after a birdie on No. 7 as she bogeyed the next two holes and yielded two strokes on the par-4 17th to end up with a 75 while Junia Gabasa and Nicole Abelar limped with 77 and 78, respectively.

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