Preview: HHS boys golfers have high hopes this year
Talk about an amazing way to get the season started: During a scrimmage last week, the Hastings boys golf team beat the defending state champions from Rogers by three strokes at a scrimmage. That great start will do nothing to cool the expectations of the Raiders coming into this season.
Hastings shot a 305 at Hastings Country Club, posting a total of six scores in the 70s. The top four scores count in varsity golf, meaning Hastings golfers shot an average of 76 on the day.
"It was very impressive," Hastings coach Pete McGinnis said. "That was a good way to start the season. We wanted our kids to see what it was like to play against a team like that. We wanted to show them what it takes to get there, and where we need to go."
Among the highlights on the day was the back nine turned in by Sam Otto, who had four birdies in the final nine holes.
"If you can birdie four of the holes on the back nine there, that's pretty impressive," McGinnis said.
Hastings comes into the season as one of the Suburban East Conference's favored schools. Hastings won the conference tournament last year at Keller and then placed fourth in the section.
"Our first goal this year is to win the conference," McGinnis said. "The next one is to win the section, and to get to the state tournament as a team."
McGinnis figures Hastings will have to shoot about a 305 to win the section title, so the fact that Hastings had a 308 in an early-season scrimmage bodes well for the Raiders.
"We've had a great start to the year," McGinnis said. "It's going to be an exciting year for us. These kids, they're always at the course, always working on their game."
Hastings will be led by two captains: Jake Cooper and Matthew Radke.
Cooper is a sophomore and Radke is a freshman. Radke qualified for the state meet last year as an eighth-grader.
Five players return from last year's section tournament team, including Cooper and Radke. Also on that team were junior Cole Carrigan and a pair of sophomores, Otto and Nick Tusa.
Those five are joined by five others who are competing for varsity spots. That group includes senior Mike Dittrich, sophomores Dominick Bacon and Mark Huneke and freshmen Luke Wagner and Joe Dittrich.
"We are going to have a number of kids playing for spots all year long," McGinnis said. "It's healthy competition. It really forces everyone to work at their game and not become complacent."
The only other senior on the roster with Mike Dittrich is P.J. Piotrowski.
Hastings has its annual Don Saatzer Invitational set for Monday, May 7 at the Hastings County Club.
Again this season, the Raiders benefit from having the use of the club and the use of Bellwood Oaks.
"That's one of the nicest situations we have," McGinnis said. "Between the country club and Bellwood, they really provide a lot of opportunities for us. Bob Stark, the professional at the club, he really helps us out.
"It's amazing the amount of time we get, and the facilities we get to use to get better."
May 7 will definitely be a busy day for Hastings. After playing here that morning, Hastings will travel to the Stillwater Country Club for a Suburban East Conference meet.
McGinnis expects Forest Lake, Stillwater and Roseville to be among the top teams in the SEC.
In the section, Eagan, Eastview and Hastings will be among the favorites.
Radke, Cooper and Tusa were each chosen to play at the prestigious Tri-State Invitational, set for April 27-28 at Edinborough.