DIVISION I: Kaui claims five-stroke lead; Gators’ title streak in danger

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.”

Division I State Tournament
At Wildcreek (par 72)
First Round
Team Scores
Spanish Springs     333
McQueen               347
Coronado               356
Arbor View             357
Green Valley          361
Bishop Gorman      378
Top Individuals
Alex Kaui, Green Valley                          70
Jamie Donizio, Basic                               75
Katrina Prendergast, Spanish Springs    76
Trae Jones, Spanish Springs                  79
Mercedes Khumnark, Green Valley        79
Koko Terada, Douglas                            79
Michelle Duan, McQueen                       80
Natalie Yamamoto, Coronado                80
Kiley Balew, Arbor View                         81
Olivia Greenwald, Coronado                  81
Airanna Bryant, Cimarron                      82
Staci Ludwig, Wooster                           82
Alice Duan, McQueen                            83
Aspen Bryant, Cimarron                        84
Sarah Thomas, Green Valley                84
Katherine DeJesus, Gorman                 85
Ashley Money, Arbor View                    85
Melissa Cayne, Gorman                       86
Courtney Hagen, Basic                         86
Carly Farthing, Manogue                      88
Kirsten Ortiz, Galena                            88
Kirsten Settas, Spanish Springs           88
Rachel Nelson, McQueen                    89