Coach returns to familiar course
Two years ago, Rutgers head men’s golf coach Rob Shutte led the Lehigh women’s golf team to its first-ever tournament victory.
Shutte will return to Bethlehem, Pa., Sunday for the Lehigh Invitational with the same expectations for the Scarlet Knights.
The Knights finished second in last year’s tournament, in part to Shutte’s affinity with the course. Shutte grew up caddying on the Mountain Hawks golf course and is confident his comprehension of the ground will benefit the teams play.
“The guys know when I’m talking that I have a lot of confidence when I speak about different aspects of the golf course,” Shutte said. “I think finishing second last year was a reflection of that a little bit.”
The Knights return four members who participated in last year’s tournament, all of whom finished among the top 20.
Among those returning is senior captain Doug Walters, who tied for third at last year’s event.
Walters finished a career-high second place at the Hartford Hawks Invitational on Sept. 24 but has never won a collegiate event. Although team success in the main goal, the Blairstown N.J., native believes winning a tournament would be a perfect ending to his college career.
“It would really check off a big goal of mine that I have been striving for since I was a freshman,” Walters said. “I always wanted to come in first as a team and now that we have done it, winning as an individual would be the next-best thing and I think that Lehigh presents a great opportunity to do that.”
It’s been two weeks since the Knights have last experienced tournament play when they finished tied for ninth Oct. 8 at the Wolfpack Intercollegiate.
To avoid the rust that typically comes with layoffs, Shutte has implemented inner squad tournaments in practices on several different golf courses offsite. The contests help keep up the squad’s intensity and competitiveness while also providing different greens and challenges for the team to adapt too.
The break has also allowed players to improve on small aspects of their game.
“Playing often breaks down some mechanics that can lead to some frustration because there’s not enough time to practice,” said sophomore Jonathan Chang. “But we’ve had a couple weeks off to get quality practices in, so we should be pretty good.”
With past success and preparation entering this year’s event, the Knights feel they are a favorite this weekend.
“We want to have a mindset where we go to a tournament and arrive there with confidence that we are the hunter that we are the team to beat.” Walters said, “My whole career I felt like we would show up to tournaments and we would try to see what team was the favorite. … I think by winning, we certainly can change the mindsets we have about ourselves.”
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