SPARKS — Green Valley’s Alex Kaui is no stranger to leading state golf tournaments.
So it should come as no surprise that the two-time state champion held a first-round lead for the third year in a row.
Kaui shot 2-under-par 70 Monday to take the individual lead after the opening round of the Division I state tournament at Wildcreek Golf Course. The final round begins at 9 a.m. today.
Kaui finished in thrilling fashion, chipping in for a 30-foot par save after hitting into a water hazard on No. 18.
“I was very happy after that. Even though I don’t think the day was very good overall, that last shot made my day,” Kaui said.
Kaui has a five-shot lead over Basic’s Jamie Donizio, but Green Valley, the three-time defending state champion, didn’t fare well as a team. Having never played the course, Kaui and the Gators were fifth out of six teams with a 361 total, 28 strokes out of first.
Spanish Springs shot the day’s best round as a team with a 333 total, 14 strokes better than second-place McQueen. Coronado was third at 356, and Arbor View fourth at 357.
“There was a bit of pressure on me today, and there still will be pressure on me during day two because I want to defend my titles, and I want to defend this team’s titles,” Kaui said.
“I really need to play well and get at least a 6 or 7 under so that when the rest of our players finish we’ll still have a chance to be in the lead.”
Shooting that low is certainly possible for Kaui, who shot 7 under at the Sunrise Region tournament last week.
“I’m a senior and I want to go out with a bang, like how I did at regionals, and just finish really well and just beat everyone,” Kaui said. “That has been my goal from the beginning.”
Green Valley sophomore Mercedes Khumnark, who is tied for fourth at 79, said she needs to play better if the Gators are to retain their state title.
“I know I need to step it up,” she said. “It really helps that (Kaui and I) talk before the game with our team about strategy and how we deal with problems, and we learned a lot today, so I’m sure tomorrow we’ll be much better.”