High School Sports

Calm, competitive Tumwater freshman is a district golf champ. Now she’s aiming for a state title

Lily McCauley is composed and articulate and, at 15, wise in the ways of golf.

She doesn’t get too excited.

It’s the strength of her game, she says, the quality that most helped her in winning the Class 2A District 4 individual title last week at Capitol City Golf Club.

Not too high when things are good, not too low when they’re bad.

McCauley, a freshman at Tumwater High School, is in the Spokane area this week representing the T-Birds at the state Class 2A girls golf championships. She has a morning tee time Tuesday for first-day play at MeadowWood Golf Course in Liberty Lake.

“I don’t really get nervous,” McCauley said. “I’m a calm person. That helps in a game like golf that can be really long and frustrating — I don’t get very frustrated or show my frustration.”

McCauley was dominant in winning the District 4 tournament. She shot 75 the first day and followed with a 76 – her two-day 151 bested second-place McKenna Kanty of Black Hills by six strokes and was 23 clear of the third-place finisher.

“I played pretty well both days,” she said. “I was pretty confident and comfortable.”

Nice, squared-away kid, everybody says. But McCauley competes hard.

“I’m a super-competitive person,” she said. “I’m super-relaxed and I don’t get very flustered when I know there’s something on the line. I’m the person who wants the ball when there’s a couple seconds on the clock. I kind of thrive on that.”

Her father is one of identical triplets, she said, and of the seven children among the three brothers, she’s the only girl against brother Jack and five male cousins. They all grew up around Olympia and play or played sports.

“They never let up on me or go easy,” she said.

Her competitive nature in sports and school – “I’m kind of a straight-A student” – fits her golf game perfectly, said Andrew Beagle, who coaches the girls and boys golf teams at Tumwater.

“She has such an even-keeled demeanor,” Beagle said. “It sets her up well – she approaches each shot individually, which is really important. In terms of her competitiveness, you wouldn’t really see her as competitive. But golf fits her so well because it’s a game against yourself, and that’s really how she approaches it.”

McCauley took up golf at 11, encouraged by Joe Thiel, her family’s next-door neighbor in Olympia at the time. Thiel, a master golf instructor with an international clientele, offered to help her learn the game. He lives now in Kirkland, and McCauley works with him at the Tacoma Country Club.

Beagle says McCauley’s methodical, consistent approach and fluid golf swing reflect what he calls the “accuracy and intentionality” of her game. She’s only been playing four years, but Beagle said, “She has amazing touch around the green. That’s where golf gets difficult.”

Beagle will be busy bouncing between MeadowWood and adjacent Liberty Lake Golf Course, site of the boys 2A tournament, where T-Bird senior Parker Mercer (31st at state last year, 6th at district this year) will be competing

The Tumwater School District is well-represented in Liberty Lake. Besides McKanty, who had the district tournament’s low round of 74 on Day 2 playing alongside McCauley, Black Hills boasts a district boys champion in Tyler Cassell. He and Wolves teammate Taylor Lunsford, seventh at district, will tee off at Liberty Lake Tuesday.

Tumwater’s girls went undefeated in winning the 2A Evergreen Conference team title, and second-place Black Hills lost just twice – both times to Tumwater.

McCauley had hoped to play basketball this season after transferring in from the Olympia School District, but her transfer appeal was denied. Beagle is grateful she was allowed to play golf.

McCauley, as young as she is, is helping Beagle build a golf culture at Tumwater.

“She assumed some pressure (coming to Tumwater),” he said “People know who she is in this area as a golfer. She fit in absolutely great with the team, and it’s not just me the coach talking – they can see somebody putting in the work and the results she shows every day.

“She obviously influenced positive growth in all of our players.”