Liberty sophomore golfers drive the podium

Calvin Cakarnis tied for second and Audrey Park took third in the state golf tournament.

Liberty sophomores Audrey Park and Calvin Cakarnis were sensational at the WIAA 3A state golf tournament on the golf course on May 23-24. Both golfers finished in the top three in the year-end tournament.

Cakarnis tied for second in Olympia at the Indian Summer Golf and Country Club, while Park placed third at The Golf Club at Hawks Prairie-Woodlands in Lacy.

After shooting 74 on his first day, Cakarnis tied for the second-lowest round of all golfers with a 71. “I got in a rhythm on the back nine. I didn’t have any bogies and had two birdies, I kept hitting the fairways and greens,” he said.

Park has experience playing in the state round as she participated in last year’s season finale. She improved on her final score from last year and jumped from 17th all the way to third the following year. It came down to her focus, she said.

“I tried to keep a better mindset. I felt like I lost myself a little bit on the course my first year at state. I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen this year,“ she said.

Cakarnis made his state tournament debut this year and after a strong first day, he sat in seventh place. His coach said he knew he would creep up the leaderboards, but how far was the question. “I knew it was an uphill battle … I knew he was up against some really tough golfers. He came a lot closer to that top spot than I thought, he’s just a tough kid, tough-minded,” said Jon Kinsley.

Park said she knew what to expect coming in, but relied on her training to help take her to a new level this season. “I just tried to keep myself in it and not think too much about other people playing. But focus on playing the best golf that I could play,” Park said.

Coming into the state tournament Calvin had a plan, he knew what holes he could make a run at and he executed that plan. “I went into it trying to stay around par,” the sophomore said. “I knew the holes I needed to birdie and did that both days.”

On her first day, Audrey shot a 74, four strokes better than her 2022 opening round at state. Funnily enough in both state tournaments on the final day, she shot a 75. She had to battle the wind and had some challenges along the way. “There was a lot of wind, it was a little bit of a struggle to adjust. But that’s part of the reason why golf is fun because you adapt and adjust to whatever it throws your way,” Park said.

A difficult part of the golf season in high school is timing. For Cakarnis his season was in the fall, so he had the entire winter and most of the spring to hone his craft. To avoid burnout is another thing that he could have fallen to, but he said he stayed strong and got right. “I had some tournaments prior to state, training for those helped prepare me for state,” he said.

Park struggled out of the gate this season, but was able to get in her groove. “I had a little bit of a rough start. But honestly, I think as the season progressed, I started playing a little better and helped me gain my confidence,“ she said.

Liberty has an extremely high ceiling with the talent these two golfers poses. For boy’s head coach Jon Kinsley the future couldn’t be brighter. “Watching what these kids can do and hit a golf ball is crazy how far they can hit it…Both are extremely fit and athletic,“ he said.

For Calvin, he tied a golfer out of Bishop Blanchet by the name of Max Herendeen who is in the top 45 best junior golfers in the nation according to The Boys Junior Rankings in Golfweek. “Tying Herendeen gives me the confidence to know I can win this next year,” Cakarnis said.

The reception of Cakarnis placing second in the state tournament isn’t what one might expect, “It was a lot of congratulations, some people even said ‘Wow you’re actually really good’,” he said.

There were five girls golfers who made the state tournament’s first round last year. All five of them placed inside the top 50, there were zero boys. This year for both a boy and a girl to make the top three is incredible. “It’s super cool. To see someone else my age from the same school was really awesome… We had lots of experiences and failures that we have been able to grow from and been able to move on to pretty awesome successes,” Park said.