March 17, 2018 | ° F

Championship match closes campaign

The Rutgers men’s and women’s golf teams tee off for the final time this season at the Big East Championship in Orlando. The women have the first crack at it when they compete this weekend in the Sunshine State.

Head coach Maura Waters-Ballard is pleased with the Scarlet Knights’ effort this season and looks forward to seeing how they close out the year. She is confident Rutgers will showcase its talent.

“All of the members of the team have been playing with confidence,” Ballard said. “They have remained focused all season long, and I know that they will carry the momentum from the season to this final match.”

The Knights have shown how determined they were to have a successful season by finishing among the top eight teams this spring in every tournament. Their best outing was the season debut in March, when they finished in third place at the Homewood Suites Invitational.

Waters-Ballard believes it was a good season for her and the program. She enjoyed working with the Knights and is excited for more seasons to come.

“This has been a fun year,” the 20-year head coach said. “This squad is very talented, and they prove it at every match. Every outing has been a blast, and I know that they will bring the same intensity to the Big East Championship and beyond.”

The Big East Championship marks the first time the Knights compete in consecutive weekends this season, following a fifth-place finish at the Columbia Roar-EE Invitational.

Freshman Kortnie Maxoutopoulis is prepared to close out the season on a high note.

“We’re ready to go out and give it our all,” the Pleasanton, Calif., native said. “We have been playing with a lot energy all season, and we cannot stop now. I want us to go out strong.”

The Knights take the course Sunday and finish Tuesday to close out the tournament and season.

On the other side, the men’s team has some more time to prepare for their season finale, when it competes April 29 to May 1 in its own conference tournament.

The Knights play on a similar course that they started the season on.

“Playing on courses in Florida can make or break you,” said head coach Rob Shutte. “We have to practice on our bunker shots and controlling our distances. The courses are unpredictable, and I’m getting the guys ready for the unexpected.”

The Knights believe they will be ready to play with the amount of practice time they have before they compete. They are confident they can adapt to whatever atmosphere and will be able to have a good outing.

“I think we’ll be fine,” said sophomore Jonathan Renza. “We have another week to give our best in practice and go out and play our hearts out. I am confident in myself and the rest of the guys. We have what it takes to get the job done.”

Rutgers had its best match of the season in Florida when it placed fifth at the Homewood Suites Invitational on March 17, led by Renza’s seventh-place finish in the 45-player field.

The season finale for the Knights puts Shutte’s first year as head coach in the books. He sees the potential in the team.

“This was a good run for us,” he said. “But I’m ready to go out strong this season and come back rejuvenated. We have what it takes to be a top-notch team, and we will get there. We just all have to buy into it.”

By Aaron Farrar

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