20-year-old Ayaka Watanabe closed with a bang at the end of March to take her 1st JLPGA title at the AXA Ladies, but she opened with one at the CyberAgent Ladies today, making 6 birdies in her 1st 14 holes. After a couple of late bogeys, she bounced back with a walkoff birdie to post the low round of the day, a 67 that left her 1 shot ahead of 25-year-old Yuki Ichinose, 21-year-old Mami Fukuda, and 17-year-old Haruka Morita and 2 shots ahead of 18-year-old Kotone Hori, 19-year-old Ai Suzuki, and 26-year-old Ji-Min Lee. Yup, the Japanese youth movement is alive and well in The Full Metal Archivist's home province of Chiba.
That's not to say that more established stars aren't right in the mix. Sun-Ju Ahn (70), Yuri Fudoh (71), Ji-Hee Lee, Ji-Yai Shin, and Momoko Ueda (72), and Bo-Mee Lee and Mi-Jeong Jeon (73) are definitely the biggest names, but watch out for 2013 Rookie of the Year Mamiko Higa (71), the underrated Yumiko Yoshida (72), and money-list leader for most of the year Onnarin Sattayabanphot (73).
I'm hopeful that defending champion Sakura Yokomine (74), visiting KLPGAer Ha-Neul Kim (75), and the youngest champion in JLPGA history Minami Katsu (76) can bounce back and make it to Sunday. So I'm off to check the 2nd-round scores, already in progress!