Since picking up the club at the age of eight, Rianne Mikhaela Malixi has not stopped working hard to reach the level where she is right now.
A day after becoming the youngest winner of the National Stroke Play golf championship at the Riviera Golf and Country Club, the 12-year-old prodigy was again hitting balls at the Camp Aguinaldo golf driving range in Quezon City.
Rianne wanted to address swing flaws with the help of coach Norman Sto. Domingo.
After few adjustments, Rianne was satisfied and started to hit her irons crisp and clean.
Rianne is consumed by her passion to be the best golfer in the world like Tiger Woods, her idol.
While unsure of what course to take when she reaches college, Rianne is definite about her plans of playing in the Ladies Professional Golfers Association (LPGA) in the United States.
“Actually, when she was small, her goal was to compete in the Professional Golfers Association (PGA), not knowing that it was for men,” chuckled Roy, Rianne’s father.
Little did Roy imagine that Rianne would reach this far.
He said it was Rianne’s idea to take up the sport.
“She saw me making swings in the living room and asked me to teach her,” Roy narrated.
Soon, Rianne would accompany her father at the Veteran Golf Club driving range.
“I bought a seven-iron worth P500 online,” Roy said.
One of the tee girls at Veterans remembers Rianne as a strong girl who can hit up to eight buckets of 60 balls each.
It didn’t take long before Rianne started beating her father who carries a 13-handicap.
These days, Rianne is a fixture at the Royal Northwoods Golf and Country where his father is a member.
She spends a minimum of five hours a day practicing in the course or at the range. She is accompanied by her mother on weekdays and father on weekends.
It’s not all golf for Rianne, however.
She spends her evening studying.
Her family decided to homeschool Rianne who is now Grade 7.
“It’s a US curriculum,” said Michelle, her mother.
Unlike most girls her age, Rianne is not much fond of social media.
In fact, she doesn’t own a phone.
“But we do provide her a phone whenever she leaves the country so we can talk to her,” Michelle said.
Her achievements abroad include a runner-up finish in the Junior World Golf championship in San Diego, California and first place in the FCG International 2019 in San Marcos, United States.
At home, Rianne topped the 2019 Philippine Amateur Open Match Play in Luisita and the 2019 Philippine Junior Amateur Open.
With the departure of Asian Games heroes Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanganan and Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Abby Arevalo to the pro ranks, Rianne is one of the players seen to carry the Philippine flag in the years to come.
As the youngest member of the national pool, Rianne now receives monthly allowances which she can use to train.
Coming from a middle-class family, Rianne is handicapped by money or the lack of it.
Roy, a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) employee, said the family is making a huge sacrifice in providing for Rianne’s daily training — about P50,000 a month.
As a result, Roy said he now limits his trips to the golf course only on weekends.
Rianne stands only five-foot one, but hits her driver between 230 and 250 yards.
Sto. Domingo, her coach, believes she can get stronger as she grows up.
“Remember, the girl is only 12,” Sto. Domingo said.
Her coach also likes his prized student’s demeanor and fighting spirit on the course.
“She’s a fighter and is not afraid to take risks,” Sto. Domingo said.
That showed during her final round showdown with Abby Arevalo, who three years ago beat the pros to win the ICTSI Riviera Ladies Classic.
Despite losing an overnight three-shot lead and failed to win the title outright in regulation, Rianne rose to the challenge in the three-hole playoff by sinking a six-footer after Arevalo inexplicably three-putted on the third extra hole.
Next on Rianne’s schedule is the Faldo qualifying championships on 24-26 January at the Valley Golf and Country Club.
She is also slated to take part in the third Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific on 12-16 February in Thailand before returning for the Philippine Ladies Amateur Open on Feb. 18-20 at the Manila Golf Club.
In July, Rianne will fly to the United States for FCG International and the IMG Junior World.