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Oshiro shares lead as AJGA opens

Kiana Oshiro’s trend in the first round of the American Junior Golf Association tournament at Centennial Golf Club had been going the wrong way.

She reversed it on Tuesday.

Playing in her fifth AJGA here, the Central Point teenager gained momentum on the back nine for a 2-under 70 and a share of the opening-round lead in the girls division.

The eighth-annual event has top juniors, ages 12-19, from 15 states, five countries and Guam. The 144-player field includes 48 girls.

“This is actually the best first day that I’ve had in this tournament,” said Oshiro, shortly after putting out for par on the 18th green.

Oshiro, 18, had previous opening scores of, in order, 71, 71, 73 and 75.

After a slow start that left her at 1 over through 11 holes Tuesday, she made two birdies and an eagle in a five-hole stretch to vault to the top.

She and Adithi Anand, of Redmond, Washington — who also had two birdies and an eagle over nearly the same stretch as Oshiro — shared the lead, along with Kayla Kozak, of Bluffton, South Carolina.

Two other girls were a shot back.

The boys division was without a runaway leader as well. Brian Stark, of Kingsburg, California, Trey Davis, of Plumas, California, and Blake Lorenz, of Peoria, Arizona, were knotted at the top with 3-under 69s. Seven players were bunched at 70.

The 54-hole tournament resumes Wednesday. After the second round, the boys and girls fields will be cut in half, plus ties, for Thursday’s final round.

Oshiro took advantage of her length to birdie the second hole, but bogeys at Nos. 5 and 6 set her back.

“It was a very slow start,” said the freshman-to-be at Western Texas College in Snyder, Texas.

She cited “tournament nerves” for preventing a better early showing.

“My putts were coming up short, my long putts,” said Oshiro. “It got better as the day went on, so that was good.”

She fell back on a strategy she employed during a weekend scramble tournament. She aimed for a spot behind the hole.

“I made a couple of long birdie putts using that, so I was pretty happy,” she said.

She moved back to even par with a birdie on the par-4 12th, using a hybrid off the tee and a 7-iron to the green. Her putting confidence, buoyed after she nearly holed out from just off the green at No. 11, served her well and she made about a 20-footer.

At No. 14, Oshiro realized her group needed to pick up the pace.

“We were falling behind the group ahead of us,” she said, “and I thought, ‘Man, what’s the quickest way to catch up besides running?’”

A birdie did the trick. She made a putt of about the same length as on 12.

After a bogey at 15, she eagled the par-5 16th. With 214 yards to the flag on her second shot, she hit a hybrid about 10 yards over the green. She pitched back to the pin, located a few steps onto the green, and watched it roll in.

Oshiro narrowly missed a 3-foot birdie putt on No. 17. She thought she needed to keep it inside the hole, but it broke ever so slightly away.

Anand started 10 minutes after Oshiro, but on the back nine. She opened with a bogey, then birdied 14 and 15 before eagling 16 to move to 3 under.

Kozak started on the back nine and made four birdies on her second nine for a 33.

On the boys side, Stark is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 84 in the AJGA listing. He has four AJGA victories in two years.

The 16-year-old made six birdies, including four on the back nine, to help overcome a double bogey.

Triston Gardner, of Medford, shot a 74 and was tied for 39th place.

BOYS TOP 10

T1. Brian Stark, Kingsburg, Calif., 37-32—69

T1. Trey Davis, Plumas Lake, Calif., 34-35—69

T1. Blake Lorenz, Peoria, Ariz., 36-33—69

T4. Raymond Navis, Nipomo, Calif., 36-34—70

T4. Vivek Vasireddy, Fremont, Calif., 36-34—70

T4. Bryce Kvick, Carmichael, Calif., 35-35—70

T4. Ryan Smith, Carlsbad, Calif., 36-34—70

T4. Sam Sommerhauser, Rocklin, Calif., 36-34—70

T4. Daniel Terrell, Portland, 36-34—70

T4. Alan Chen, Fremont, Calif., 35-35—70

OTHERS

T39. Triston Gardner, Medford, 37-37—74

GIRLS TOP 10

T1. Kayla Kozak, Bluffton, S.C., 33-37—70

T1. Kiana Oshiro, Central Point, 37-33—70

T1. Adithi Anand, Redmond, Wash., 37-33—70

T4. Hailey Borja, Lake Forest, Calif., 33-38—71

T4. Therese Warner, Kennewick, Wash., 36-35—71

T6. Jing Wen Lu, Shanghai, China, 36-36—72

T6. Yu Wen Lu, Shanghai, China, 35-37—72

T8. Melinda Yuan, San Ramon, Calif., 37-36—73

T8. Morgan Goldstein, Las Vegas, 37-36—73

T8. Nicole Abelar, Mandaluyong, Philippines, 35-38—73

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@mailtribune.com

Central Point's Kiana Oshiro follows through on a tee shot during Tuesday's opening round. She shares the lead at 2-under 70. [PHOTO FROM AJGA]