Rutgers earns experience in first Big Ten season
The Rutgers men’s golf team completed its season in Newburgh, Indiana, at the Big Ten Championship on Sunday afternoon. When the Scarlet Knights heard the results of the tournament, the 2014-15 campaign came to a close.
The Knights finished in 14th place at the tournament with a total score of 1,274. The team fell behind early due to struggles in the opening rounds after posting scores of 322 and 328 during the rounds one and two.
Despite being out of contention in the later portions of the event on Saturday and Sunday, the golfers battled and made a slight comeback.
The Knights improved their scorecard by shooting a 312 in rounds three and four.
“They certainly got more comfortable,” said head coach Rob Shutte. “I think they were in a good spot mentally going in, but I think certainly it was a big stage and so that didn’t help early on, especially in the first 36 holes. It kind of just lasted the entire 36 holes. ... One of the qualities of all the tournaments we play in, we want to try to get better every round, you know, even when you have such a bad start and they did do that.”
Shutte thought Rutgers showed fight by continuing to play through the difficulties and not giving up.
“It certainly speaks to their fight and not packing it in, even though it was easy to pack it in given their positon early on there,” he said.
The Knights' performance in the Big Ten Championship summed up their first campaign as a member of a premier academic and athletic conference in collegiate athletics.
Rutgers has the potential to compete with the top programs in the Big Ten and it showed with its scores in the final two rounds at the conference championship. However, there is a gap between the Knights and their counterparts.
Rutgers failed to secure any tournament victories this season, partly due to the fact that it contains a young group of players. With a roster composed of nine golfers, six of the players are underclassmen — three freshman and three sophomores.
The lone senior on the roster, Jacob Stockl, capped his career on the banks over the weekend.
“It’s pretty wild looking back on it,” Stockl said. “I mean, it’s been a great four years. I wouldn’t want to change anything, and I’ve learned a lot as a person, as an athlete and as a student. I know that I’ll continue to open the next chapter of my life, and it’s sad, yeah, definitely, but I’ll just open a new chapter in my life and I can always grow from it.”
As one of the most decorated team members, Stockl shared a fair amount of success in his four years at Rutgers. The Knights will have a big void to fill next season with his departure, but Stockl believes the team is a work in progress with the ability to attain success in the near future.
“We played good this season,” he said. “We didn’t win any event, which is something that I would have liked to, but we were up there near the top on certain events. I felt like we had a chance to win. I think we have a lot of work to do before we can compete with the top teams in the Big Ten, but we’re definitely going in the right direction. We know that we can get there soon.”
Freshman Toks Pedro had a solid year in his first go around. The Lagos, Nigeria, native echoed a similar sentiment to Stockl, stating his belief that Rutgers is beginning to close the gap between itself and other Big Ten squads.
“We’re very close,” Pedro said. “We just all need to improve in various areas. Every year we are definitely going to get better and get closer and closer to doing that for sure. We’re also a young team and we have a lot of time to get experience. We have to keep learning and keep improving."
The golfers now have the summer to work and practice their games. Pedro said he needs to improve all aspects of his game to prepare for the fall season.
“Everything, to be honest,” Pedro said on what he needs to practice. “I think every part of my game can improve and I think just focus on all of that and you know, hard work. We can all get there, we’re not very far off. We’re definitely not miles away from even the best players in the Big Ten. Just improving each aspect of your game a little bit. Eventually, I’m sure we’ll all get there.”
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