Rutgers concludes season at Big Ten Championship
The final chapter has unfolded.
The Rutgers men’s golf team took an 831-mile journey from Piscataway to Newburgh, Indiana, to compete in the Big Ten Championship.
The Scarlet Knights shot a plus-122, 1,274 at the Big Ten Championships for a 14th place finish. Rutgers put up a 328 on Friday, a 322 in the second round and a 312 in both rounds three and four.
No. 4 Illinois won the Big Ten Championship with a 1,138 total. No. 46 Iowa ended in second place after hitting a 1,170 and Minnesota had a 1,181 for a third place finish.
The Knights played a practice round on Thursday at the Victoria National Golf Club. The practice round gives golfers the opportunity to become more familiar with the course and its hazards prior to the commencement of official competition.
“We had a normal practice round,” said head coach Rob Shutte. “I mean, it’s the first time playing with this type of rough, first time playing on the golf course itself, so (we were) learning the golf course and where to hit it and where you can miss it."
Because the Knights have never played at Victoria National prior to the weekend, Shutte emphasized the importance of becoming familiar with the course.
“Sometimes, in the practice rounds, we know where the pins are going to be, we know were the tees are going to be,” he said. “This practice round we did not know that, so we didn’t spend as much time working as much on just the hole locations … You know, put together a game plan with wind direction and all that kind of stuff for tomorrow. So (we were) evaluating all aspects, evaluating shots, evaluating shots on the greens, evaluating potential pin locations and all that kind of stuff.”
The conditions at Victoria National Golf Club were superb as a result of the upcoming PGA Tour event, the Web.com Championship, being held there in the upcoming week.
“The conditions are wonderful,” Shutte said. "... The golf course’s green staff is taking a lot of pride in setting it up. The rough is very lush, and the fairways are firm and fast, the greens are firm and fast, so conditions couldn’t be better for a championship.”
All 14 Big Ten Conference universities participated in the championship in the four-round, three-day tournament.
The lineup for Rutgers consisted of senior Jacob Stockl, freshman Toks Pedro, sophomore Michael Howe, freshman Matt Holuta and junior Louis Bodine.
Shutte said it was the first time this lineup was used, electing to go with it because of the potential for explosive play.
Entering the final tournament of his collegiate career, Stockl was first up on the tee for the Knights on Friday morning.
Shutte said he would not think about the impending end to Stockl’s career at Rutgers until the conclusion of the Big Ten Championship.
“I haven’t really thought about it too much,” said Shutte. “It’s been one of those things when you’re in the moment — we’re just competing. I think those types of things will set in maybe after the rounds are over but I think we just kind of come in and treat it like any other tournament. I haven’t really thought about it myself. I don’t know how much he’s (Stockl) thought about that. We’ll reflect on those things afterwards.”
Stockl finished in 62nd place at the conclusion of the tournament with a plus-30, hitting 40 pars and eight birdies over the weekend.
“This week, I thought I played a lot better the last two rounds,” Stockl said. “I think we all played a lot better the last few rounds. I felt like we all just stepped up to the plate and played the games we’re capable of playing. We all know that we’re really good players. We know that we have the ability to compete with the best teams out there. This week, we didn’t play as well as we could have but we all have the ability to get the job done in the future.”
Pedro shot a 21 over par for a 51st place finish, compiling 39 pars and nine birdies.
“This weekend was a learning experience,” Pedro said. “I didn’t do my best, but I definitely learned a lot. It was nice to be able to compete with the best teams in the stroke play event and see how far away we are from actually being there. That was cool to do that, and it’s always nice to be part of this conference and the high level of competition.”
Ending in a tie for 68th place, Howe shot a plus-18 with eight birdies and 31 pars.
With a plus-43, Holuta finished in a tie for 69th in the standings. He had a total of 30 pars and birdied four times.
Bodine, meanwhile, collected five birdies, an eagle and 32 pars to total a plus-44 and good for a 69th place tie.
After digging itself into a big hole in the first two rounds, Rutgers battled back by carrying its solid play into the third and fourth round. Shutte expressed the pride of his team’s tenacity and will to compete for one another.
“They played hard, they tried their best,” Shutte said. "I’m certainly proud of the way they tried their best. We certainly got off to a horrendous start the first day, which I think unfortunately set a tough move for the team to feel the best about themselves going into rounds two, three and four, you know, knowing we were so far back. … The guys had great attitudes going in, they prepared, they competed hard even when things got going in the wrong direction. From that standpoint, I’m proud of the way they tried their best. There’s a gap between where we are and where we’ve got to go.”
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