Pair of teams begin spring season
The Rutgers men and women’s golf teams competed for the first time this weekend at the Homewood Suites Invitational in Port St. Lucie, Fla., a long-awaited event for both teams.
On the men’s side, the Scarlet Knights placed fifth with a team score of 621. The tournament also began a new era for the Knights, marking the debut for head coach Rob Shutte.
“I didn’t make too much of it,” Shutte said. “I’m just concerned with continuing to build the chemistry with my players. I try not to make a big deal about who I’m coaching.”
But coaching a new a group of faces for the first time in a competitive match can be overwhelming.
“There were definitely mixed emotions,” Shutte said. “Everyone was just excited to get back in the flow of things. Even though conditions were tough, I liked how we handled it and I am pleased.”
In the Knights’ first match of the spring season, Shutte saw some things he hopes will remain throughout the season.
“I like how my players played basic golf and showed their talent,” he said. “The guys allowed the light switch to go off and they played their game. They understand the concept of allowing their talent to coincide with their play.”
Freshman Jacob Stockl and sophomore Jonathan Renza finished in the top 20 of competitors to close out the weekend.
Stockl carded a 151 and tied for seventh overall. Renza complemented Stockl with a 155 to finish in a tie for 17th.
While both golfers finished in the top half of the field, Shutte knows his team needs to continue to improve as the season progresses.
“Overall, everything could have been better,” Shutte said. “We had good clarity, but it needs to get tighter throughout the season.”
One of the main areas Shutte believes Rutgers needs to focus on is its short game.
“Stats dictate what we are good at, as well as what we need to work on,” he said. “So that means we need to put in practice time. Due to our need of getting better at putting, right after the match, I held a practice simply focusing on putting.”
Shutte wants to see his players understand the importance of constant growth by the way they play match after a match.
“I want to get them back in the flow on the course,” he said. “They need to get back in the flow of competing. I want to see this attitude throughout the season.”
The women’s team faired better during the weekend, placing third with a score of 648.
With the Knights returned to the greens for the first time this spring season, it was hard for the team to contain its emotions.
“It felt great and we were excited,” said head women’s coach Maura Waters-Ballard. “It was what we were waiting for. We were excited when this weekend came.”
Junior Brittany Weddell and freshman Kortnie Maxoutopoulis were catalysts for the team, as both finished in the top 10 of the 49-player field.
Weddell tied for seventh with a score of 157, while Maxoutopoulis carded a tied 158 for a ninth-place finish.
Waters-Ballard was pleased with her team’s effort at the tournament and is confident the Knights’ play will be consistent throughout the season.
“Everybody kept a great attitude and stayed positive,” Waters-Ballard said. “They stayed upbeat and enjoyed their time here, which encouraged them to compete at a high level.”
The debut of Rutgers’ spring campaign can set the tone for the rest of the season.
“This match made us realize that we have to work harder,” Waters-Ballard said. “We have to remain hungry and remember what our goals are to be successful this season.”
Both squads continue their pursuit of a decorated spring campaign April 2 at the Penn Invitational in Pine Hill, N.J.