Golf

Sera Tadokoro tied for lead after first round of Prairie Invitational golf tourney

Gianna Augustine tees off at Monday’s first round of the Prairie Invitational in Parkville.
Gianna Augustine tees off at Monday’s first round of the Prairie Invitational in Parkville.

Sera Tadokoro figured she did lots right in Monday’s first round of the Prairie Invitational golf tournament’s Open Division in Parkville. She birdied three different holes, and outside of a practice round, it was her first time playing at The National Golf Club of Kansas City.

But it wasn’t until three hours after she shot a 2-over 74, tying for the lead, that she even found out she had topped the first-round leaderboard. A friend shared the news with her via text.

“She was like, ‘You’re tied for the lead,’” Tadokoro said. “I was like, ‘Oh. OK.’ I was kind of surprised.”

Tadokoro, an incoming golfer at the Universit of Kansas, finished Monday tied for the lead with Sarah Bell and Abigail Rigsby.

Kayla Eckelkamp, the 2016 champion, and Gianna Augustine are tied for fourth. Both shot 3-over 75 Monday.

But back to Tadokoro. She’s tied for the lead, in large part, because she birdied Nos. 1, 11 and 14.

“My shot was pretty cross,” said Tadokoro, who recorded two top-10 finishes in her sophomore season at KU. “On No. 1, I made, like, a 10-foot birdie putt. Then, on 11 and 14, it was a three-foot birdie putt. So it was kind of easy to make birdies.”

She had her mentality to thank for that.

“I just focus on myself,” Tadokoro said. “I don’t think about (other people). I was trying not to see the scores today.”

Tadokoro has registered a solid first half to her college golf career. Last season, on top of her two top-10 finishes, she was the top Kansas finisher at the Lady Paladin Invitational, where she shot a career-best even 216 and finished in a tie for eighth place.

She also carded a 2-over 218 at the Palmetto Intercollegiate, where she finished tied for seventh place and posted three rounds under par.

“Overall, I played pretty well,” Tadokoro said. “I just had a double (bogey) on No. 17. That’s the only thing I didn’t do very well — that hole. Everything else, I would say I played pretty decent.”

Bell, who wrapped up her freshman campaign at Oral Roberts in the spring, left satisfied, too. But she said she knows she can do better.

“Tomorrow I just (need to) clean it up,” she said, “and be a little more aggressive with my putts. Just trust myself a little bit. My ball striking is as good as it’s ever been. It’s just my putting. I did save a lot of my birdies.”

Like Tadokoro, Bell had never played the course. She’s from Jackson, roughly a five-hour drive from Parkville, so it’s hard to blame her.

Still, she said she liked it, wind and all.

“I feel like that course is fit for me,” Bell said. “It has so much character to it. … For me, I love tough courses because it makes you think a lot more creatively, and I love that.”

As for Eckelkamp, whose 2016 title came at the Loch Lloyd Country Club four years after she finished her senior year at Maryville, she also felt like she played well. Considering how strong the wind picked up toward the end of her round, she said, maybe even more so.

She birdied holes 2, 8, 9, 11 and 18.

“This course’s fairways are fairly generous,” Eckelkamp said. “You almost have to hit in the fairway if you want to be aggressive. I think, to a degree, I managed those holes very well. Kind of found — I wouldn’t say the place that I wanted to miss — but if I was going to err on one side, (it was) where I wanted to.”

Tee times for Tuesday’s second round will begin at 7:30 a.m.

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