Elk River-Zimmerman senior golfer Sadie Martin relays a simple yet daunting message to her younger teammates seeking improvement.

"I like to go out and play with people who are better than me so I can push myself to play as well as them," Martin said.

Competition has been readily available in Martin's family. Oldest sister Anne carded the third-lowest score for the Elks' 2005 big-school state championship team. Middle sister Molly finished fourth at state the next year.

Even when Martin steps out of the house, she is surrounded by golf. Her family lives on the 16th hole at the Links at Northfork golf course in Ramsey.

Martin took her place in the family's golf annals by placing eighth at state as a junior last season. It was the highest finish of her three consecutive state meet appearances. Along the way, she won the individual Class 3A, Section 7 crown and helped the Elks grab the section team title.

Martin, who will play golf next season at Augustana College, spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about gearing up for her senior season.

Q At the state meet you've jumped from 69th to 40th to eighth. What do you think about when you reflect on your performances?

A Well, in both my freshman and sophomore years I didn't have very good rounds at state so I was kind of disappointed. I had high hopes last year and I was really happy with where I placed.

Q Have you been able to put your finger on what was lacking those first two times you played at state?

A I think that I just was getting nervous and having bad holes. I didn't have huge blow-up holes or anything, but I learned to make it more simple, more relaxed.

Q Did having the team with you last year help the nerves?

A Yeah, it made the experience a lot more fun.

Q How soon into your round last year did you feel it was going to be a better performance?

A My first round was decent. I wasn't real pleased. But it got better.

Q That 35 in the third round was nice.

A Yeah, I had never broke par on nine holes before. I was like, 'OK, stay with it.'

Q Do you remember where you were in the standings after the first day?

A I'm not sure but I know I wasn't in the top 10. Getting the 35 helped a lot. And the second day was kind of drizzly and the scores were a lot higher.

Q What's the key to making another jump this year, from eighth place to near or at the top?

A I'm just trying to zero in on every component of my game. I'm trying to get a little more distance, especially for college. And I'm working harder on my irons.

Q You graduated a couple seniors from the team. What are the Elks' chances of going back to state?

A We've got some young girls who are working really hard. So I think we can make it back to state.

Q So living on the course at Northfork, I don't suppose you can just walk out and putt on the 16th green.

A Well, yeah, actually I can. Sometimes we do.

David La Vaque • 612-673-7574