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21-year-old Akane Yoshino, fresh off the JLPGA’s developmental Step-Up Tour, fired a bogey-free 65 in the 1st round of the Ito-En Ladies to take a 2-shot lead on Kumiko Kaneda, Na-Ri Kim, and Lala Anai. 17-year-old amateur Shoko Sasaki and 20-year-old Rumi Yoshiba, another Step-Up Tour stepper-upper, are only 3 shots back, tied with Soo-Yun Kang, Erina Hara, Yayoi Arasaki, and Mihoko Iseri. With money-list leader Rikako Morita, Miki Saiki, Yumiko Yoshida, Shiho Oyama, Yuki Ichinose, Mayu Hattori, and others only 4 off the pace, and Sakura Yokomine and Sun-Ju Ahn within 5 of the lead, the newest Japanese young guns are going to have their hands full over the next 36 holes. But with most of the field already starting moving day, I’ll hold off on the details until tomorrow!
[Update 1 (8:12 pm): Cam’t resist mentioning that while Yoshiba is a top-5 player on the Step-Up Tour, Yoshino barely made the top 100 on their money list this season! And yet she beat Teresa Lu and Bo-Mee Lee by 10 shots. That’s golf for ya!]