Rianne Malixi’s hopes were dashed as Kiara Romero managed a narrow 1-up victory, snatching the championship title in the US Girls’ Junior at the Eisenhower Golf Club’s Blue course in Colorado. Malixi had displayed remarkable resilience in the morning session, but she lost her rhythm after the break.

In a thrilling finale that extended to all 36 holes, Malixi initially took charge, securing a two-hole lead twice, with the last one coming on the 16th hole due to a mistake by Romero. Despite bogeying the 18th, she finished the first 18 holes with a one-hole advantage.

However, things took a turn for Malixi as she struggled following the break, losing a stroke on the 22nd hole and allowing Romero to level the match. On the 26th hole, another mishap led her to trail in the match for the first time. Malixi managed to draw level on the 28th hole, only to fall behind again after a bogey on the 31st hole, which she had parred during the morning battle.

For 17-year-old Romero, an incoming freshman at the University of Oregon and with Filipino heritage, the victory was sweet. She held her composure in the crucial moments and matched Malixi’s pars in the final five holes, securing her place as the champion and earning an exemption to the upcoming US Women’s Open and an invitation to the 2024 Augusta Women’s Amateur.

It was a heartbreaking moment for Malixi, who had hoped to cap off an extraordinary week marked by impressive wins, including an impressive victory over Audrey Rischer in the Round of 16. Despite her gutsy performance throughout the tournament, she fell short of clinching the ultimate prize and adding a crowning glory to her already stellar amateur career.

The battle between Malixi and Romero was intense, with both players displaying their skills and determination. In the end, it was Romero who emerged victorious, denying Malixi’s attempt to match Princess Superal’s record win in the 2014 edition of the annual event in Arizona. (ai/mnm)