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SUNRISE: Kaui sparks Green Valley win

Green Valley golfer Alex Kaui sensed her short game and long game were coming together nicely Tuesday at Tuscany.

The Gators needed every bit of the prolific senior’s consistent play.

Kaui had seven birdies and no bogeys on her way to a 7-under-par 65 to claim the Division I Sunrise Region tournament title by eight strokes. Her dominance helped Green Valley edge rival Coronado for the Sunrise team title, 316-320.

“I’d say my putting was good,” Kaui said. “Not only was I hitting a lot of greens, but the putting and the hitting were just connecting today; and that’s one of the reasons I shot what I shot. It was definitely short game and long game coming together.”

Kaui shot 32 on the back nine, including four birdies.

“She’s so focused when she plays,” Green Valley coach Greg Murphy said. “She gets into that mindset she’s going to make everything. You’re not going to see one like her for a long time.”

The Gators won their fourth straight region crown.

Both Green Valley and Coronado advanced to the state tournament, which will be held Monday and Tuesday at Wildcreek in Sparks.

Murphy said Kaui’s short game separates her from most of her peers. That quality came to fruition at the 17th hole, where Kaui sank a long putt for her final birdie with darkness closing in.

“We were actually running on the hole because we thought we were going to be late and weren’t going to finish,” Kaui said. “All of it was rushed. It kind of clicked to me, ‘Go, make the putt, leave. We have to get going.’ And it ends up going in.”

Green Valley senior Sarah Thomas shot 73 and took second place by a scorecard playoff over sophomore teammate Mercedes Khumnark, who also shot 73.

Coronado sophomore Natalie Yamamoto (74) won a scorecard playoff over Coronado junior Olivia Greenwald, and Basic senior Jamie Donizio (78) took sixth.

“It feels really good because not only did we win, but I wanted to end with a bang because it’s my senior year,” said Kaui, who has committed to Oklahoma. “But I’m just really happy that we won.”

Murphy was thrilled with the way the Gators’ No. 4 individual, sophomore Haley Merrill, emerged with a 105, which was crucial toward helping the Gators edge the Cougars.

“Having our No. 4 hang in there and shoot 105 today was outstanding, so everybody stepped up and stuck to the game plan,” Murphy said. “We’ve been looking for a No. 4 all year, and we had a four step up today.”

Coronado junior Ciara Clark shot 82.

Individuals who qualified for state were: Donizio, Foothill’s Amy Ruelas (79), Basic’s Courtney Hagen (79), Foothill’s Jourden Brown (88) and Valley’s Samantha Chambers (89).

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