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Oshiro hopes Centennial AJGA is uplifting experience

Kiana Oshiro recently won one competition.

Next week, she wants to claim another.

That the athletic events are about as disparate as one could imagine matters not.

“I want to play my best, and I want to win,” said the 18-year-old Central Point golfer, who once again will be in the American Junior Golf Association tournament at Centennial Golf Club.

The eighth annual tourney will have a field of 144 top junior players ages 12 to 18 from across the country and beyond.

The week begins with an AJGA qualifier Sunday, allowing players a chance to make it into the main tournament or score points that will help them get into future events.

There will be a junior-amateur tournament Monday, followed by a practice round for the players.

The 54-hole stroke-play tournament begins Tuesday, with a 36-hole cut after Wednesday’s second round.

Spectators are welcome, and there is no admission charge. Tee times start at 7:30 a.m. each day, and play continues all day.

Tournament volunteers are being sought. Anyone interested can contact Bill Seymour at 541-482-7810, or sbseymour@charter.net.

This will be a record fifth year that Oshiro has entered.

She’s already made her mark as a golfer, having won the Oregon Class 5A state championship and setting an all-time scoring record for a single round while playing for Crater.

But she proved adept at another sport recently: powerlifting.

Oshiro shattered the state record for her age and weight class last Saturday in the bench press at the U.S. Powerlifting Association state championships in Newport.

Her best of 159 pounds improved the record by 44 pounds.

It was Oshiro’s first competition as a weightlifter.

Oshiro has been weight training since elementary school as a means to enhance her golf.

“My dad always thought that since I’m short, I needed something to separate myself from the field,” she said, “which became strength, so I could hit the ball farther than all the other girls.”

The strategy has played out nicely, and Oshiro — who has a scholarship to play golf in the fall at Western Texas College in Snyder, Texas — hopes to use length and other parts of her game for a good showing at the AJGA.

Oshiro won the high school state title as a junior in 2016. This past spring, she missed the prep season while attending Logos Public Charter School in Medford.

She hasn’t played as much competitive golf the past couple months as she’d like, the lone tournament being the Oregon Golf Association junior at Centennial, which she won.

Without tournaments, she’s practiced often and played a lot of rounds, honing her game.

In the OGA event, she made 27 pars over 36 holes while shooting an even-par 72 on the first day and a 71 on Day 2.

“The entire game wasn’t there,” said Oshiro, “but it was well-rounded enough so it wasn’t terrible. My iron game was good but wasn’t great. My putting was good but wasn’t great.”

In windy conditions, she hit piercing shots that were to her liking.

She won by two strokes over Victoria Gailey. No one else was closer than 10 shots to Oshiro.

In the AJGA at Centennial, Oshiro first competed as a 14-year-old in a Junior All-Star portion of the tournament. She was 3 under for 54 holes and placed second.

In the main draw the next three years, she tied for fourth, tied for second and, last year, placed 14th.

“That experience is definitely going to help her, not only on the golf course but just the experience of competition,” said Vince Domenzain, director of golf at Centennial. “We definitely look for her name, at the end of the event, to be pretty close to the top.”

Oshiro has been impressed by the level of talent the tournament draws. Each year, she said, it seems the younger players get better.

“It would be really cool for me to win this,” said Oshiro. “I just want to play my best, really. Sometimes playing your best isn’t good enough. But I really hope I can bring all of myself out for this one, play good and make the people that want me to do good, proud.”

Last year’s girls winner was Jo Hua Hung, of New Taipei City, Taiwan. She shot a 5-under 211. Oshiro was nine strokes back.

The boys winner was Bryan Teoh Wiyang, of Jupiter, Florida. He shot a 10-under 206.

Ling Kun Kong, of Arcadia, California, can become the first two-time champion here. He won in 2015.

Domenzain marvels at the talented juniors playing AJGA.

The men’s (63) and women’s (65) course records were set in this tournament.

“It’s amazing the whole process these kids go through,” he said. “Conditioning, nutrition, the mental side of the game, and their golf coaches. It’s quite a bit different. They start so young. They’re taking the model tour players would use and applying it to kids. I think that’s why they’re getting bigger, stronger, faster.”

The tournament is a month earlier than last year. Coming out of a wet spring, the course is in fine shape and conducive “to good scoring for these kids,” said Domenzain.

“Those records,” he added, “are always in jeopardy.”

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or email ttrower@mailtribune.com