BEAVERCREEK, Ohio (AP) -- Akiko Fukushima, Nancy Scranton and Tracy Hanson shot 5-under-par 67s Friday to share the first-round lead in the $650,000 Firstar LPGA Classic.
Jan Stephenson, Hiromi Kobayashi, Kris Monaghan and Wendy Ward were one shot behind at the Country Club of the North, a 6,302-yard course built by Jack Nicklaus in this Dayton suburb.Defending champion Meg Mallon and two-time 1999 winner Se Ri Pak shot 70s, while Juli Inkster, a five-time winner this year, shot a 72.
Fukushima, who doesn't speak English, explained her long trip from Japan through an interpreter. She played in a sponsor's tournament in Japan that finished Sunday, then had to stay for other sponsor duties Monday.
Fukushima didn't get to fly out of Tokyo until Tuesday and that was after a car ride from the tournament site to the airport took eight hours because of a tropical depression. Following a 12-hour flight to Dayton through Chicago, she played in the pro-am Wednesday.
"Toward the end of the afternoon, I get a little sleepy," Fukushima said.
Fukushima had an early afternoon tee time on the back nine and birdied three of the first four holes.
"Lately, I haven't been playing well," Fukushima said. "I'm happy with what I shot today. I felt good from the start."
Fukushima, a pro in Japan since 1992, entered the Firstar in 23rd place on the earnings list with more than $250,000. She won the inaugural Philips Invitational in May.
Scranton, recovering from left shoulder surgery three years ago, is having her best year money-wise -- $255,000 -- so far, although it cost her an extra $100 to enter the tournament because she didn't decide until late last week.
Hanson is well down the money list at No. 73 with not quite $89,000 in winnings.
"I've been making a lot of cuts, although I'm inconsistent from day to day," she said.