September 24, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers heads to 'Happy Valley' for Rutherford Invitational

Photo by Yingjie Hu |

Freshmen Toks Pedro paced the Knights at the Princeton Invitational with a fourth place finish after shooting a plus-two, 72 in the final round.

The Rutgers men’s golf team will travel to University Park, Pa., for the Rutherford Intercollegiate held this Saturday and Sunday. The event will be hosted by Penn State and the competition will be played at its university golf course.

Penn State’s participation in the Rutherford Intercollegiate offers the Scarlet Knights a formidable test before they play in the Big Ten Championships the following weekend.

"Yeah, I mean the golf courses don’t really resemble each other,” said head coach Rob Shutte. “It’s not like they have a lot of resemblance, golf course-wise, but from the standpoint that it's two days after we get back from the tournament (Rutherford Intercollegiate), we’re leaving for Big Ten. It certainly would give a good standpoint for where some of our games would be at leading into that tournament.”

The Nittany Lions have two golf courses on their campus — the White Course and the Blue Course. The tournament will be played on the Blue Course at State College. The Blue Course’s front nine and back nine are radically different.

The first nine holes total 3,696 yards, with par set at 36. It has very short greens and narrow fairways. The greens are surrounded by trees and many of them have quite a few bunkers in the vicinity.

The back nine of the Blue Course is designed to resemble a links style course. In other words, the course has a body of water incorporated into it. There are water hazards on holes 14 and 18. 

The par 36, 3,518-yard back nine not only has numerous green bunkers, but also has 11 fairway bunkers to increase the difficulty.

“Penn State’s a place where there’s some holes that are very demanding out of bounds and places,” Shutte said. “So you’ve got to make sure you don’t bring a high number in there. Certainly it’s a course that has a lot of undulations to the greens. It’s a course where you gotta try to take advantage and make a bunch of birdies and mentally play confident golf.”

Penn State played at the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate last weekend and had a successful turnout. JD Dornes led the Nittany Lions with a plus-three, 216 and earned a spot in the top-10 in the individual standings for his effort. Penn State shot an 887 as a team, rounding out a ninth place finish.

Rutgers is coming off one of its finest performances of the 2015 season, a fourth place finish at the Princeton Invitational. The Knights shot a 301 last Saturday, followed by a 289 on Sunday for a total mark of 590.

Leading the pack for Rutgers was freshman Toks Pedro who concluded the tournament in a tie for fourth place individually. Pedro finished the Princeton Invitational with a plus-two, 72. Senior Jacob Stockl, junior Louis Bodine and freshman Jack Panagos all finished in the top-30.

Maintaining the momentum that the Knights picked up last weekend will be important for the team’s psyche.

“(To) play golf, that mentally is, you know, about hitting shots,” said Shutte. "The weather should be pretty good on Saturday, a little rain on Sunday. It’s really just where — mentally going in we have to be strong with our games and things like that. The golf course is so straight forward. ... We’ve gotta go out and hit a lot of greens and make some putts. Hopefully, the greens are in decent shape to roll some putts."

To prepare for the Rutherford Invitational, Shutte held three practices for his team and he emphasized competiton.

“We just had three practices,” he said. “Two practices we just competed. You know, we needed to continue to compete, so we went off site to two locations — Fairmount Country Club and Foresgate — and just continued to intersquad and compete.”

Shutte would like Rutgers to improve their putting this weekend.

“After last tournament, we gotta do a better job with putting, speed control and things like that. The speed control, it’s really just continuing to compete and going through the repetitions of seeing shots, hitting shots, being committed to shots and things like that," he said. "There isn’t a whole lot of time for necessarily adjusting other than actually getting out and continuing to try and shot and do it live, simulating competition in practice and seeing if it translates into the tournament.”

Shutte has not decided on the lineup he will use at the Rutherford Invitational but he said that Pedro, Stockl and freshman Matt Holuta will play. When asked whether he was looking forward to coaching at his alma mater, Shutte showed no hesitation. 

“Absolutely,” Shutte said. “You know, I know the streets well, know where the good ice cream spots are but we’ve been close to them in matchplay and we tied them at two and a half. They beat us on the tiebreaker down at Big Ten. … Last year we were competitive, we were right there. I’d really like to beat my alma mater, so I’m hoping this will be the year we can do it. But it’s not really extra pressure for the guys, I’d just like to go back and have a good week leading into the Big Ten.”

For updates on the Rutgers men’s golf team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

Evan Bruno

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