Miguel Lays Down a Marker in Manila

Miguel Ilas took top honours at the 12th Faldo Series Philippines Championship.

Manila, Philippines: Motivated by the prospect of a return trip to Vietnam, Miguel Ilas motored to an emphatic triumph in the 12th edition of the Faldo Series Philippines Championship.

Six strokes clear of the field after back-to-back five-under-par 67s, Ilas closed out the 54-hole tournament with a controlled even-par 72 at Valley Golf and Country Club.

As well as retaining his title in the Boys’ Under-16 category in the 16th event of the 2019-20 Faldo Series Asia season, Ilas claimed the overall Faldo Series Philippines Championship title for the first time.

In so doing, he secured his ticket to the 14th Faldo Series Asia Grand Final, to be hosted by Sir Nick Faldo at Vietnam’s Laguna Lăng Cô from March 4-6.

There, he will be seeking to attend to unfinished business. At last year’s Grand Final, Ilas was joint leader among the Boys’ Under-16s heading into the final round. However, he stumbled to a last-day 81 that saw him drop to equal ninth. By qualifying again, he has given himself a shot at redemption.

In what shapes up to be arguably the strongest Faldo Series Asia Grand Final challenge from the Philippines for many years, Ilas will be joined in Vietnam by Aldo Barro (Boys’ Under-21 winner), Masaichi Otake (Boys’ Under-18 winner), Jona Angela Magcalayo (Girls’ Under-21 winner) and 12-year-old prodigy Rianne Mikhaela Malixi (Girls’ Under-16 winner).

For the second tournament in succession, Malixi survived a nerve-tingling finale before emerging triumphant.

A fortnight ago, Malixi wrote her name into the Philippines golfing record books by becoming the youngest winner of the National Stroke Play Championship, defeating Southeast Asian Games team gold medallist Abby Arevalo at the third hole of a sudden-death play-off.

At Valley Golf and Country Club in the event organised by the Junior Golf Foundation of the Philippines (JGFP), a non-profit organisation dedicated to the growth and development of golf in the country, Malixi was once more taken to extra-time. On this occasion she edged out Burberry Zhang.

Malixi trailed Zhang by four shots heading into the final round, but whittled away at the deficit to build a one-stroke lead with three holes remaining. With tension mounting, both girls bogeyed 16 and 17. While Zhang parred 18, Malixi carded a third successive bogey to leave the duo tied together on 225.

In the play-off, it was the bespectacled Malixi who prevailed, breathing an audible sigh of relief ahead of next month’s Philippine Ladies Open Amateur when her skill and composure will again be tested against players of considerably greater age and experience.

Zhang was not the only participant at Valley Golf and Country Club left to ponder what might have been. Spare a thought for Sean Granada and Rho Hyun-ho who finished second and third behind Ilas in the Boys’ Under-16s and second and third overall. Although they had the distinction of being the only players in the field to break par in all three rounds, their performances were not enough to see them to progress to the Grand Final.

The 2019-20 Faldo Series Asia season is supported by The R&A and endorsed by the Asian Tour and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation. The International Junior Golf Academy is a partner of the Faldo Series.

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