Rutgers prepares to take on looming Big Ten rivals
Most Rutgers students spent their summer vacations on the warm, sandy beaches of the Jersey Shore, lounging on their beach towels and inhaling the sea air.
But one group of women used their time off to better themselves. They got stronger and improved their game.
This company of troops claims to be battle-ready. They are the Rutgers women’s golf team.
Despite being away from each other during the summer months, players on the team remained hard at work. The Scarlet Knights aimed to enhance their golf games by spending countless hours on the course, at the driving range and by participating in tournaments.
Head coach Kari Williams wanted her players to continue to operate under practice conditions similar to the ones employed over the course of a season at Rutgers.
“You know, I wanted them to take some of the practice habits and skills that they built up all year and apply them to their practice and their fine tunings of their swings over the summer,” Williams told the Targum. “Then I just wanted them to play in a lot of competitions.”
Sophomore Emily Mills and senior Racquel Zurick continue to shine as Knights.
A Colts Neck, New Jersey, native, Mills had a stellar freshman season on the banks. In July, Mills participated in the 113th North and South Women’s Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina. She qualified for match play at the event.
Playing golf in events such as the one Mills was in can do wonders for one’s game because the field is so competitive and challenging. Taking part in tournaments is something that Williams wanted the team to do during their time away.
“I think that to get better at competing, you have to compete,” Williams said. “I wanted them out there playing big time events that made them get butterflies in their stomachs so that when they came back and started to compete for us again, they were used to it … and it was easy to do.”
Mills was named a team captain along with Zurick. Being given a seat at the helm as just a sophomore is a testament to the fine job Mills has done both on and off the course in just one year in Piscataway.
“Emily and Racquel were named captains for us and they have taken on that (leadership) role and they’ve done a great job with it,” Williams said. “They’ve come into the fall prepared. ... They put in a lot of time this summer in a workshop, working on their leadership skills and getting themselves prepared to be first class students and really be prepared to compete in the Big Ten and be good golfers.”
Mills and sophomore teammate Tatum Jackson are expected to make an impact this season. Williams wants to see Jackson and Mills play well this fall.
“I expect both of them to be in the lineup,” she said. “I expect their stroke averages to be significantly lower. Emily had a really great freshman year. (She) won her first college event with our low scoring average for the year. She’s been leading the team since she walked on the campus. Tatum finished up the year really well for us at the Big Ten Championship.”
Because Jackson and Mills each have a year under their belts, they feel much more comfortable and confident going into the fall season.
“You know, just not being a freshman anymore and they’re that much more confident in their game and they’ve done it before,” Williams said. “I think all of the unknowns are kind of gone and now they know how good they can be and I think they’re committed to doing the work.”
The Knights will return to action this Friday in State College, Pennsylvania, at the Nittany Lion Invitational on the campus of Penn State. The tournament will be played from Sept. 4 through Sunday, Sept. 6.
Williams offered some insight on the course at PSU.
“Well, it’s a little bit more under laying as far as tee to green than Rutgers golf course. But the greens are a little bit bigger,” she said. “I think the greens here at our course are a little more difficult."
According to Williams, the tournament offers an opportunity to make a splash in the Knights' return to the green.
"I think that we have a really good chance at posting some good to great scores at Penn State," she said. "There’s a couple of longer par fives and their par threes are pretty tough. … We’re preparing them pretty well for the event and it’s the first event, so I think more than anything we just got to be united as a team and get over those first tournament jitters.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s golf team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.