Whenever someone tries to kid Brad Dalke about his age, he brushes it off.
The youngest of seven children, Dalke is used to being the new kid on the block, especially when Cody Proveaux is around to joke around with him.
“He calls me ‘Little Man’,” Dalke said. “They all make fun of my age, but I like it. I feel like I’m with my older brothers and sisters. We’re all one big family.”
In this week’s Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, Dalke is the youngest competitor at age 14. The tournament features 54 of the top juniors from around the world, most of them ages 17 or 18. Eight players are 16, while another five are 15.
Don’t discount Dalke, of McKinney, Texas, because of his youth. He is ranked 10th in the American Junior Golf Rankings, 26th in Golfweek and 46th in the Junior Golf Scoreboard. A solid verbal commitment to the University of Oklahoma since age 12, Dalke qualified for the Junior Invitational in May by winning the Thunderbird International Junior, an event that pushed him into the junior spotlight.
Dalke has played golf almost his entire life. He began the sport two months after he could walk. As an 11-month-old, he found his dad chipping in the backyard. Dalke grabbed a club and whacked away. Bill Dalke cut down a 7-iron for his youngest child, and the two would hit balls on the range.
Dalke played in his first tournament at age 3 and started seeing serious tournament action four years later. Now, he plays in all the major junior events, including the biggest of his career starting Friday.
“Everyone said it was like the Masters for juniors,” Dalke said. “The course is a lot like Augusta. Everything is cut perfect. And you get treated like royalty.”
At 14, Dalke is 5-foot-9, 185 pounds and already hits his tee ball on average about 285, 290 yards, he said. He is a straight-hitter whose game is based around his strong short-game play.
Dalke is looking to test his game again this weekend against his older competition. If he can’t win, he said, he’d like to post a top-10 finish.
“I just want to go out there and play solid,” he said. “I haven’t done that in a few tournaments. I’d like to go out there and get my confidence back up.”