Rutgers finds hidden gem in freshman golfer
When Rutgers men’s golf head coach Rob Shutte first laid eyes on freshman Jack Panagos, he saw a diamond in the rough. Standing at approximately six feet and four inches, Shutte knew Panagos had the potential to be a special golfer.
“When I recruited Jack, I felt like his body frame ... and his great pair of hands ... was a nice raw talent situation,” Shutte said. “He had won down in Florida when he was a junior (in high school). He won the Architects event when he moved up here, so I knew he could win. And I just liked the size, the hands, the potential, the attitude and things like that.”
Despite flying under the radar as a prospect, Shutte did not hesitate to recruit Panagos to be a part of the Scarlet Knights.
“He wasn’t like a national level recruit necessarily,” Shutte said. “But then again, not everybody is and yet, they can be very good players. I just liked the raw 'dough,' you know, not in a bad way. 'Dough,' because he needed to get trimmer, but he had a good canvas there. We could try to develop him.”
Panagos hails from Maryland but now resides in Hillsborough, New Jersey.
“My first two seasons, I was actually in Florida,” Panagos said. “So, that was a big change when I moved up here (New Jersey). I moved up here at the beginning of junior year. It was a big difference. With the winter here it’s kind of hard to practice and stuff, but I got used to it. I had a decent career when I got here (to Rutgers).”
He credits his father, Jim, for introducing him to the game.
“I know he’s a football coach, but he’s still a big golfer," Panagos said. "One time we went to the range, and I first started playing. I think I was 10 years old when I started.”
Panagos’ first taste of success came at a local nine-hole tournament. He said it is one of his fondest golf memories.
“I think I was 12-years-old, and there was this nine-hole tournament,” he said. “I just remember doing really well, and it was the first time I broke 40, too. I was just doing really well in that, and it was pretty cool.”
Panagos’ father, Jim, is the defensive line coach of the Rutgers football team, so he was already familiar with the campus. Panagos said he felt comfortable and decided to commit.
Now, he enjoys the convenience of being able to visit his father at the Hale Center after he has study hall.
“It was nice to know a few more people around here when I first got here,” Panagos said. “It’s nice to be able to just pop in his office after study hall and just talk to him. I see him more when I’m here during the season than I was when I was in high school at home.”
Shutte is very impressed with how Panagos has handled himself more so off the course than on it. With his father being a football coach, Panagos could have relied on the advantages of his situation, but chose to instead make his own road.
“Knowing that background, I think what’s impressive has been just his ability to make his own pathway amongst our team,” Shutte said. “For him to start to create his own identity within the team and earn those things that he’s gotten. It’s impressed me for him to be able to be his own man here at (the) University and not be someone who's just simply riding the coat tails of other family members.”
Shutte believes often keeps the fact that his father is a football coach to himsel
“I feel like he almost wants to disassociate himself at times to make sure he’s creating his own identity,” Shutte said. “He doesn’t mention his family ties very often unless it’s kind of pressed because he wants it to be about him and his process with the team.
Panagos has not seen much playing time in tournaments during his freshman season, but Shutte says his time is quickly approaching.
Although Panagos is known by many for being a football coach’s son, he is widely regarded as a great teammate by his fellow golfers.
“Oh yeah, he’s a great teammate,” said fellow teammate sophomore Michael Howe. “He really fits in well. He’s just a fun, loving guy. He’s hard working like the rest of us, and he’s just a really good friend.”
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