Malixi in harness to square off with veteran foes in SEA Games

VINH PHUC, Vietnam—Young sensation Rianne Malixi will be the athlete to watch for Team Philippines in the golf competition of the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games that tees off Friday at the Heron Lake Course.

Malixi, a 15-year-old spearhead of Team International Container Terminal Services Inc., is excited over what she describes as her biggest tournament so far and said she’s geared up to square off with the likes of Thailand’s Narkitta Wongthaveelap, a three-time Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour winner; Pimkwan Chukaew, a King Rama VII Cup titlist; and fellow 15-year-old Ella Galitsky for the coveted gold.

Lois Kaye Go, a member of the 2019 gold medal-winning squad, and Mafy Singson complete the women’s team billed as one of the teams to beat. Gone from the squad are Bianca Pagdanganan, who bagged the individual gold in 2019, and Abby Arevalo.

Jet Hernandez, Jed Dy, Kristoffer Arevalo and Gab Manotoc make up the men’s team, all of who are primed-up for a face-off with the fancied Thai squad led by the celebrated Ratchanon Chantananuwat, who at 15 became the youngest winner on the Asian Tour when he topped the inaugural Asian Mixed Cup in Siam last month.

“We believe all are motivated intrinsically by being their best versions. This is the challenge we have given them—to be better every day, in all aspects both on and off the course,” women’s coach Miko Alejandro said. “I think it’s not necessarily pressuring but more inspiration to the players. We use these stories to remind us we are capable.”

Malixi is coming off a string of victories, including a couple of feats in the local pro circuit and one in the American Junior Golf Association.

“It will be exciting. I’ll play my best for the team,” Malixi said. “This is the biggest for me so far, playing not for myself but for our country. By playing my best, it’s like I’m paying a tribute to our flag. I’m looking forward to hearing our national anthem at the end of the tournament.”

Host Vietnam is out to spoil the highly-anticipated Philippines-Thailand duel for the gold, along with Malaysia and Singapore, but the perennial regional rivals are expected to take center stage just the same with their depth and talent in both sides of the 54-hole tournament.