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Despite age, Radke golfs in top three

Matt Radke is one of the younger members of the Hastings boys golf team, but he's kept up with his older teammates.

Hastings High School's boys golf team is young. Only two of the six varsity players attend the high school. Three are in eighth grade. And then there's Matt Radke, a seventh-grader.

His age, however, is no indicator of his ability. Radke has been keeping up with his older teammates and has consistently been one of the team's leaders this season.

"It's really fun knowing that I can go out there and compete with the high schoolers," he said.

He's not just talking about his own team. Most of the schools they play against have varsity teams filled with seniors, juniors and sophomores, Radke said.

There's one player Radke said he can't compete with, and that's his teammate Max Fox.

"You look up to him," Radke said of Fox. "You can't compete with him."

Radke had been hitting golf balls at his grandparents' condo pretty much since he could walk, he said, but it wasn't until about two or three years ago he started getting serious about playing the game. Now he's made golf a huge part of his life.

"I'll hit golf balls from eight in the morning to nine at night," he said.

This is the first chance he's had to play on the school's team. The middle school doesn't have a golf team, so the high school allows seventh- and eighth-graders to play with the older students. Last year, Radke played on a Minnesota junior PGA team, winning two of the seven matches he played and earning two second- and one third-place finish.

Radke scored his personal best on one of his junior PGA wins with a 71. The second-place golfer finished with 77. This year Radke's averaging 81.

For the Raiders, Radke usually plays the No. 3 spot, although he did play one match as No. 2. That was only because his teammate, Jake Cooper, was away for the match, Radke said.

How does he do so well? He doesn't focus on the bad.

"I don't get mad at my shots," he said. "I just forget about it."

As the team gets into tournament play, Radke knows the team has room for improvement.

"Everyone's got different things to work on," he said. "I've got to work on my iron game."

Radke plans to stick with the team for a while.

"I'll play till 12th grade, hopefully," he said.

Radke expects his final years with the Raiders to be strong, if his fellow middle school golfers continue to play as well. Add four more years of experience to a group of seventh- and eighth-graders already doing well, and the team could be exceptionally good, Radke said.