KOHLER, Wis. — Although plenty of athletes have used sports to lift themselves up from difficult backgrounds, Lizette Salas’ path to the pros isn’t the sort of story that’s often heard in golf.

The 22-year-old Salas shot a 3-under 69 in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open on Thursday, grabbing a share of the lead along with fellow Americans Cristie Kerr, the 2007 Open winner, and Brittany Lincicome.

Salas is the daughter of Mexican immigrants from Azusa, Calif., a city with a history of gang issues outside Los Angeles. With help from her family, she used golf to earn a scholarship to USC — and now, a spot on the LPGA Tour and a share of the Open lead.

With her family on hand to cheer her on this week, Salas sees her play as a tribute to her parents.

“My dad still works long hours out on the golf course, my mom also,” Salas said. “So this is just my way of repaying them for all their sacrifice and all their work they’ve done for me.”

Third-ranked Ai Miyazato, the Japanese star coming off a victory Sunday in the LPGA Tour event in Arkansas, was a stroke back along with 17-year-old Lexi Thompson, Jennie Lee and Beatriz Recari. Seven players — including No. 5 Na Yeon Choi and No. 6 Suzann Pettersen — shot 71 in the nearly 100-degree heat and high humidity that turned Blackwolf Run, a challenging 6,944-yard course in central Wisconsin, into a boiler.

Defending champion So Yeon Ryu finished with a 74. Se Ri Pak, who won the Open at Blackwolf Run in 1998, shot a 72.

Top-ranked Yani Tseng shot a 74. She would become the youngest player to complete a career Grand Slam with a victory this weekend.

Michelle Wie also opened with a 74, and second-ranked Stacy Lewis shot 77.

Cheyenne Woods, Tiger Woods’ niece, had a 75.

Salas began playing at age 7 thanks in large part of her father, Ramon, who is the head mechanic at a golf course and offered to do odd jobs for a local pro if he was willing to teach Salas how to play.

“He didn’t have that much money to pay for lessons because they’re really expensive,” Salas said. “I didn’t have golf shoes. I didn’t know how to dress, nothing like that. They worked out a deal where my dad did handyman favors for them. My dad fixed cars on the side, and that’s how I got started. Just been swinging ever since. Haven’t stopped.”

As Salas began playing in tournaments, she and her father would drive long distances and sleep in the car to save money. Even now that Salas is a professional, the family still sometimes travels the country in its high-mileage 2006 Toyota Tacoma.

“We like that truck,” Salas said. “It’s red and it has ‘USC dad’ on it. I think it has over 90,000 miles on it. We’ve had some great memories, laughed and shed tears in that truck.

“And I often slept in it. It’s been a good, it’s been a fun adventure, and just going to keep going and making more experiences.”

The other leaders have an edge in terms of experience.

Kerr is a 14-time winner on the LPGA tour. But she was winless in 2011 after winning at least one tournament in each of the previous seven years.

Kerr, who birdied three of her first seven holes and made it through the day without a bogey, feels a different level of energy at the Open.

“This is where I want to perform,” she said. “This is the stage I want to perform on.”

The long-hitting Lincicome has five career LPGA tour wins, including a major win in the 209 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Going into this week, breaking par didn’t seem possible at Blackwolf Run.

“Obviously today shooting 3 under I have to kind of rethink my strategy, and obviously under par is very doable,” Lincicome said. “If you can keep it in the fairway, hit it in the right spot on the green and I made a couple long putts today which was nice.”

a-denotes amateur

Lizette Salas 34-35—69

Brittany Lincicome 35-34—69

Cristie Kerr 36-33—69

Beatriz Recari 35-35—70

Ai Miyazato 32-38—70

Lexi Thompson 34-36—70

Jennie Lee 34-36—70

Meena Lee 35-36—71

Sandra Gal 35-36—71

Inbee Park 35-36—71

Mika Miyazato 37-34—71

Vicky Hurst 36-35—71

Na Yeon Choi 33-38—71

Suzann Pettersen 34-37—71

Katie Burnett 36-36—72

Jimin Kang 36-36—72

Wendy Ward 36-36—72

Se Ri Pak 37-35—72

Anna Nordqvist 36-36—72

Il Hee Lee 37-35—72

Mindy Kim 35-37—72

Hee Kyung Seo 36-36—72

Jennifer Song 38-34—72

Numa Gulyanamitta 37-36—73

Gerina Piller 37-36—73

Cindy LaCrosse 35-38—73

Paula Creamer 37-36—73

Azahara Munoz 36-37—73

Jeong Jang 33-40—73

Amy Yang 36-37—73

Katie Futcher 36-37—73

Jennifer Gleason 35-38—73

Dewi Claire Schreefel 38-35—73

Jinyoung Pak 35-38—73

Brittany Lang 35-38—73

a-Emma Talley 37-36—73

Nicole Castrale 37-36—73

Alison Walshe 35-39—74

Mi Hyang Lee 38-36—74

a-Elisabeth Bernabe 38-36—74

So Yeon Ryu 38-36—74

I.K. Kim 36-38—74

Morgan Pressel 37-37—74

Shanshan Feng 38-36—74

Candie Kung 38-36—74

a-Katherine Perry 37-37—74

Giulia Sergas 39-35—74

Brianna Do 34-40—74

a-Lydia Ko 36-38—74

Hee Young Park 36-38—74

Jessica Korda 35-39—74

Michelle Wie 36-38—74

Yani Tseng 36-38—74

Yeon Ju Jung 35-39—74

Ryann O'Toole;37-38—75

a-Alison Lee 37-38—75

Jenny Suh 37-38—75

Christina Kim 39-36—75

Angela Stanford 37-38—75

Tiffany Joh 38-37—75

Kristy McPherson 40-35—75

Christel Boeljon 36-39—75

Cheyenne Woods 36-39—75

a-Megan Khang 38-37—75

Tessa Teachman 38-37—75

a-Jaye Marie Green 36-39—75

Heather Bowie Young 38-37—75

Amanda Blumenherst 37-38—75

Paige Mackenzie 37-38—75

Catriona Matthew 38-37—75

Katherine Hull 38-37—75

Sakura Yokomine 37-38—75

Karrie Webb 38-37—75

Angela Oh 36-39—75

Sue Kim 37-38—75

Haru Nomura 39-36—75

Lorie Kane 39-37—76

Belen Mozo 38-38—76

Stacy Prammanasudh 40-36—76

Natalie Gulbis 38-38—76

Eun-Hee Ji 38-38—76

a-Hannad O’Sullivan 38-38—76

Hiroko Ayada 37-39—76

a-Jisoo Park 40-36—76

Kris Tamulis 38-38—76

a-Doris Chen 37-39—76

Pornanong Phatlum 38-38—76

Karen Stupples 36-40—76

Diana Luna 39-37—76

Jenny Shin 37-39—76

Sun Young Yoo 37-39—76

Jennifer Johnson 38-38—76

Carlota Ciganda 37-39—76

Kelly Jacques 37-40—77

Paola Moreno 38-39—77

Soo Jin Yang 35-42—77

Maria Hjorth 39-38—77

Hee Won Han 37-40—77

a-Kyung Kim 35-42—77

Momoko Ueda 38-39—77

Caroline Hedwall 41-36—77

Stacy Lewis 38-39—77

Sophie Gustafson 39-38—77

Mina Harigae 37-40—77

a-Stephanie Meadow 40-37—77

a-Angel Yin 42-36—78

Haley Wilson 38-40—78

a-Kelly Shon 40-38—78

a-Brittany Altomare 41-37—78

Danielle Kang 37-41—78

Lee-Anne Pace 37-41—78

Yukari Baba 39-39—78

Jamie Hullett 39-39—78

Seon Hwa Lee 39-39—78

Mo Martin 38-40—78

Mina Nakayama 40-38—78

Kyeong Bae 38-40—78

Juli Inkster 39-40—79

Brooke Pancake 39-40—79

a-Lindsey Weaver 37-42—79

Veronica Felibert 37-42—79

Melissa Reid 40-39—79

Jihee Lee 42-37—79

Cydney Clanton 40-39—79

Becca Huffer 41-38—79

a-Christine Meier 40-40—80

Jane Rah 37-43—80

a-Moriya Jutanugarn 38-42—80

Reilley Rankin 40-40—80

a-Gabriela Lopez 38-42—80

a-Ashley Armstrong 38-42—80

Mi Jung Hur 38-42—80

a-Gabriella Dominguez 42-38—80

a-Annie Park 39-42—81

Victoria Tanco 43-38—81

Birdie Kim 43-38—81

Julieta Granada 38-43—81

Aimee Neff 40-41—81

Pat Hurst 40-41—81

Kylene Pulley 40-41—81

a-Jisoo Keel 41-40—81

Becky Morgan 39-42—81

Chella Choi 39-42—81

Hyun Hwa Sim 43-38—81

Isabelle Beisiegel 41-40—81

Katy Harris 40-42—82

Anya Sarai Alvarez 40-42—82

Amy Hung 42-40—82

a-Shannon Aubert 41-41—82

Lisa Grimes 44-39—83

Cathryn Bristow 44-39—83

Lili Alvarez 45-39—84

a-Briana Mao 39-46—85

a-Gigi Stoll 39-47—86

a-Rinko Mitsunaga 44-43—87

a-Samantha S. Marks 45-42—87