Avani pipped to the post by Malixi, finishes second at Australian Master of Amateurs
Melbourne: Avani Prashanth regained her form in the final round with a fine card of 3-under 70 but was pipped to the post by a familiar rival, Rianne Mikhaela Malixi of the Philippines by one shot in the Australian Master of Amateurs Championships at Southern Golf CLub in Melbourne.
Avani’s fourth and final round 70 saw her finish the 72-hole event with a total of 6-under, even as the 16-year-old Malixi, who was tied with the Indian in second place after three days, shot 4-under 69 to grab the title.
Avani had rounds of 71-68-77-70 for a 6-under 286 at the Par-73 while Malixi with 70-72-74-69 for a total of 7-under 285.
Japan’s Nika Ito, who led after the first two rounds, finished third with 68-70-78-71 at 5-under 287, while the 54-hole leader, Australia’s Lion Higo was fourth with cards of 71-71-70-76.
Malixi and Avani will battle it out again next week at Australian Amateurs and then the Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific in Thailand in early February.
The win also marked a fine birthday present for Malixi’s mother, Michelle, who celebrated her birthday on Wednesday this week.
Avani said, “Well, I think it was a good week. I can’t complain too much. But I didn’t have the best day in the third round which I think caused the issue. but there’s always next week.”
On where she thinks her game is, she added, “I have been playing well and hopefully I can build on it as I have quite a few big events, including next week here itself in Australia.”
It was another fine result for Avani, who since finishing sixth at the same event last year, has been in great form. She won individual honours at Queen Sirikit Cup, where Malixi was third. Avani also topped the Asian Games trials ahead of the professionals in India, but was only 18th at the main Games.
The Indian amateur star also won the Ahlsell Final for professionals on the Ladies European Tour Access Series and was fourth in the individual section at the World Amateur Team Championships in Abu Dhabi. In addition, she was in Top-10 at LET’s pro events, the Magical Kenya Ladies Open and the Hero Women’s Indian Open, and closed 2023 with T-13 finish at the LET’s final event, the Mallorca Ladies Open.
The other Indian participant in women’s section Heena Kang missed the 54-hole cut, as did Rohit Narwal and Sandeep Yadav. Avani and the other three Indians selected by the Indian Golf Union, are also due to play in another major amateur event, the Australian Amateur at the Yarra Yarra Golf Club and Keysbrough Golf Club from January 16 to 19.
This week was a big win for Malixi, who was the most consistent with rounds of 74 or better on each of the day, while Avani, Ito and Higo had a blowout once each.
After a fine 32 front nine, when the finish became tight, Malixi broke away from Japan’s Ito, who played in a flight ahead, with a birdie on the par-3 16th then capitalized on the latter’s costly mishap on the 17th to pull ahead. Malixi matched Prashanth’s pars in the last two holes to grab the win.
Malixi has more than once come close to a win but this time she finally landed the title. She was runner-up at the US Girls Juniors and had six Top-10s worldwide.Malixi was emotional as she given the symbolic Green Jacket of victory, as she shared the podium with men’s champion Phoenix Campbell. She thanked her team, family and coach-caddie Rick Gibson, who once was a runner-up at the Indian Open.