AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Kiara Romero won the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship on Saturday, outlasting Rianne Malixi 1-up with a 7-foot par putt on the 36th and final hole at the U.S. Air Force Academy Eisenhower Golf Club.
“My heart was racing,” Romero said. “I didn’t really think about how it was going to be determining the match and stuff, I just tried to focus on putting a good stroke on it.”
The 17-year-old Romero, from San Jose, California, took the lead with a par on the 31st — the 121-yard 13th hole on the Blue Course — and halved the final five holes with pars.
“I’m just so excited and super tired,” said Romero, an incoming freshman at Oregon. “I mean, it’s been a long day and I’m really glad I got it done. But I don’t think it has really sunk in yet.”
Romero put her name on the Glenna Collett Vare Trophy and earned spots in the 2024 U.S. Women’s Open at Lancaster Country Club in Pennsylvania and the 2024 Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Both finalists are exempt next month in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles.
The 16-year-old Malixi was trying to become the second player from the Philippines to win the event, following Princes Mary Superal in 2014.
“It was totally a grind,” Malixi said. “I didn’t really have my ‘A’ game today.”
Malixi had a 2-up lead through seven, and Romero won Nos. 9 and 10 to tie. Malixi took Nos. 12 and 16 for another 2-up lead, and Romero rallied to tie it with par wins on Nos. 18 and 22. Romero won the 26th with a par 4 for her first lead, and Malixi tied it with a par 4 on the 28th.
“With golf, you never know what’s going to happen,” Romero said. “So, you just have to stay calm and focus really hard.”