HANGZHOU—Rianne Malixi and Lois Kaye Go launch their drive already handicapped even before they tee off for the women’s golf competition of the 19th Asian Games at the West Lake International Golf Country Club in Xihu District Thursday.
Malixi and Go are vying in the three-to-play, two-two-count competition where the country is the defending gold medalist in individual team play—Yuka Saso, now a Japanese citizen, won the individual title that powered her, Go and Bianca Pagdanganan to the team gold in Jakarta 2018.
They were supposed to be three but Princess Superal begged off because of her commitment to secure a Ladies Professional Golf Tour card and her replacement, Chanelle Avaricio, was denied accreditation by the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee because she wasn’t on the long list submitted by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.
But Malixi and Go remain upbeat of their chances in the individual competitions led by Chinese Yin Ruoning, the world’s No. 1 for two consecutive weeks from September 11 before yielding it to American Lilia Vu this week.
Yin, who edged Yuka Saso by one to score a major breakthrough in the Women’s Professional Golfers Association Championship last June, remains a 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 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. But she has opted for the Japanese citizenship month’s 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.
“They’re preparations are OK,” said Malixi’s father Roy.
Although 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 Im Sungjae, world No. 27 Im and 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.
Also in the fold 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 Asian Tour campaigners Poom Saksansin, Danthai Boonma and Phachara Kongwhatmai of Thailand.
Professionals are already allowed in Asian Games golf starting in Hangzhou.