Sakamoto soars to district championship

Steady golf led Kallie Sakamoto to the district championship by 15 strokes Wednesday, at the Mint Valley Golf Course in Longview.

“I wasn’t really expecting it,” said the Washougal High School sophomore. “I just had a really good round. Actually, two really good rounds.”

Sakamoto won the tournament with a two-day total of 161. She shot a 79 in the first round, after making 10 pars and a birdie, to build a seven-stroke advantage.

“I’ve never been in first place before,” she said. “I just played my game and whatever happened, happened.”

Sakamoto had a couple of rough holes Wednesday, but still increased her lead by eight more strokes. She went 3-over on the third hole, but then parred the fourth and fifth holes, birdied the seventh hole and evened the eighth hole. She also hit back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th holes after going 4-over on the 14th hole.

“I put the bad ones behind me and just thought about the next hole and my next swing,” Sakamoto said. “My approach shot on 15 set it up. I got real close to the hole. I didn’t expect to make the putt on 16. It was like a 15- to 20-footer.”

After a par on 17, Sakamoto had one more hurdle to clear on 18. Her tee shot landed off the fairway to the right, and about 20 feet away from the building that holds the tennis and racquetball courts at Mint Valley.

“I couldn’t see the flag, but I had a shot at the front of the green,” Sakamoto said.

But, she also had that menacing wall in her peripheral vision. Although her approach shot sailed over the green, at least she didn’t hit the building.

“I was pretty scared of that,” Sakamoto said. “I tried blocking it out, and I managed to do it.”

Washougal finished in second place at the 10-team district tournament. The Panthers scored 99.5 points to rise above Black Hills and W.F. West. Hockinson won the team championship with 104.5 points.

Alissa Lenczowski and Abigail Lyle also played in the final round. Lenczowski earned 10th place to join Sakamoto at state.

“I just kept it together and pulled through those last four holes. I was trying not to count because I knew it would make me play worse,” Lenczowski said. “It feels good to be the one and only senior on the team making it to state for the first time ever.”

Lenczowski played in the state basketball tournament for the first time during her senior year of high school, and now she’s going to do the same in golf.

“It’s not just about the game, it’s more about the people you’re with,” she said. “These are memories I’ll be able to cherish for the rest of my life.”

The 2A state girls tournament takes place Tuesday and Wednesday at Columbia Point Golf Course, in Richland. Lenczowski and Sakamoto look forward to experiencing this journey together.

“Kallie is the best golfer here. It’s exciting to be able to share this with someone,” Lenczowski said. “She was always making me putt, making me chip and making me work. She was constantly making me better and making herself better. We both just put in the time and it’s paid off.”