ASAKURA, Fukuoka Pref. – Ai Ogawa and South Korea’s Lee Ji Hee fired 5-under-par 67s to share the first-round lead at the Vernal Ladies on Friday.
Ogawa, looking for her first career title, made seven birdies against a double bogey while Lee, who has won seven times on the Japan LPGA tour, had six birdies and a bogey at Fukuoka Century Golf Club.
Ogawa, a 30-year-old who turned professional in 1996, has had two top-10 finishes this year including a fifth-place tie at the Accordia Golf Ladies in March for her best career result.
Michie Oba and Midori Yoneyama finished the day tied for third place, one stroke behind the joint leaders.
Michiko Hattori carded a 69 to stand alone in fifth. Another shot back were Shiho Oyama, who won two of the last three tournaments, Mineko Nasu, Lee Eun Hye of South Korea and Atomi Shiota.
Yuri Fudo, the money title winner the previous six years, shot a 71 for a tie for 10th.
The 54-hole tournament in Fukuoka Prefecture is one of the richest on the tour, offering 21.6 million yen in top prize money out of the 120 million yen purse.