Rutgers shoots for strong starts in facing Jersey rivals
Playing on hallowed ground is always special.
The Rutgers men’s golf team was afforded the opportunity at Chambers Bay, the home of the 2015 U.S. Open Championship.
The Scarlet Knights have the honor of playing on the same course that the top professional golfers in the world will play on this coming June.
“I think the guys were a little excited,” said head coach Rob Shutte. “Some of them were very excited it’s a U.S. Open venue this year. The Grandstands are going up and it’s an opportunity to, you know, have a really good finish.”
Chambers Bay is a links or British style course, built on the banks of Pudget Sound. The course has large fairways, but also features big sand dunes which make playing the course even more challenging.
“When the conditions were tough, we were trying really hard — too hard, maybe,” Shutte said. “All of a sudden, that golf course has so much teeth to it, so things got going in the wrong direction quickly and we weren’t able to stop the momentum. ... It was a U.S. Open course, you know, just being able to play on that challenging of a golf course, we learned a lot."
Although the team did not compete for the U.S. Open Championship, Rutgers had an important task ahead of itself — a top finish at the Redhawk Invitational in Seattle.
The Knights had to battle many obstacles throughout out the tournament on Monday and Tuesday. Aside from the rainy Seattle weather, the golfers had to adjust to Pacific Coast Time.
Rutgers received a boost to its team as senior Jacob Stockl returned to the rotation for the Knights. Stockl did not partake in the last tournament because of a disciplinary issue.
Rutgers played the first two rounds of the Redhawk Invitational on Monday, so the team had to be ready for 36 holes.
The Knights had an exceptional day, standing in the top-five at the conclusion of rounds one and two. As a team, Rutgers compiled a 301 in the first round followed by a 295 in round two for a combined score of 596.
Stockl played stellar golf in the first two rounds with a plus-two, 72 on the first 18 holes and three over par 73 in the second round for a 145 total mark. Stockl had 19 pars and hit seven birdies. The senior ended the day in a tie for ninth in the individual standings.
Freshman Toks Pedro shot 21 pars and four birdies on Monday. Pedro also had an eagle on the eight hole in round two with three strokes to hit the ball into the hole on the par five. Pedro shot a plus six, 76 in the first round and a two over par, 72 in round two for a total of 148.
Ryan Rose completed the first two rounds in a tie for 42nd place. The sophomore hit a five-over 75 in round one and a plus-seven, 77 in the second round. Rose compiled 22 pars and two birdies to conclude Monday’s play with a 152.
Fellow sophomore Michael Howe also played a solid two rounds on Monday, but struggled a bit in the first round with a thirteen over par 83 with bogeys on five holes.
Howe ran into some trouble on the fourth hole and it took him 10 shots to get the ball into the hole on the par four. His rough times continued three holes later on the seventh with a triple bogey and he had an ugly quadruple bogey on the 13th.
Howe bounced back with a plus three, 73 in round two. He shot 13 pars and one birdie in round two and increased his total score to 156.
Freshman Matt Holuta continues to progress in his first season as a Knight. Holuta’s total after Monday’s play was 161 and he finished in a tie for 74th place.
“I thought they were in a good spot going into the final round,” said Shutte. “We certainly weren’t afraid, but I think some of them were a little too excited and battled tough starts, cold conditions. … That golf course is not a golf course you can press and try to get shots back — it’s the U.S. Open. It’s set up where you kind of have to keep plugging along making pars. If you start aiming at flag sticks, before you know it you’ve got quick bogeys and quick double bogeys very fast.”
Rutgers continued play Tuesday morning and the team’s results were mixed. The unit dropped five spots in the standings, from fifth to 10th place at the conclusion of the round. Rutgers shot a 321 in the third round to boost its total to 917.
Stockl finished in a tie for 15th place in the individual standings after a 78 in the round. Pedro had an 86 and earned a tie for 53rd. Rose finished in 79th after an 89 in the third round.
Washington won the Redhawk Invitational with an 854 team total, followed by Seattle in second and Texas Christian in third.
“Certainly a disappointing final day,” Shutte said. “We were in position, we were in fifth place after 36 holes. ... We got a nice round bounce-back round from Michael Howe. Toks Pedro had a 73 in the second round so, we saw some signs. … Part of it is just we’re learning cause we’re freshmen and sophomores.”
Next up, the Knights heads to the Princeton Invitational.
Rutgers will face off against two of its most historic rivals: Princeton and Seton Hall.
“There’s going to be a lot of teams there,” said Shutte. “We wouldn’t isolate those two teams necessarily — it’s just a chip on our shoulder, because I think the guys continue to see that potential and it’s just I think a little more frustration of being able to finish off tournaments.”
Shutte says it is crucial for the Knights to have better event starts in order to have more success on the course.
“We’ve had problems in the past with younger teams getting off to good starts and then finishing strong,” he said. “It’s really been a hard time getting off to good starts and finishing strong.
The event will be held at the Aronimink Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., instead of at the Springdale Golf Club in New Jersey due to the toll the winter weather took on the course.
Aronimink was the home of the 1962 PGA Championship and will host the 2018 BMW Championship. Legendary golfers including Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have competed there.
Aronimink has very lengthy holes which includes 545 yard, par-five 16th hole. Rutgers will be tested and will need to utilize its long game, specifically iron play, to succeed over the weekend.
“They’re going to get some rain tomorrow so until we get on property, we’re going to assume that it’s gonna be on the wetter side,” said Shutte. “That’ll help us to just stop the long irons on the greens a little bit easier … Aronomink has some more trees to deal with so, we’re going to have to drive the ball long and straight. ... Championship venues are going to test all aspects of the game. You’re not going to be able to be one-dimensional. There are going to be good tests of all aspects of the game.”
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