Rutgers senior finishes third in Connecticut
The Rutgers men’s golf team trekked to South Kent, Connecticut, to participate in the Hartford Hawks Invitational on Monday and Tuesday. The Scarlet Knights faced some fierce competition as several top-notch programs including UConn, Seton Hall and Towson competed in the event.
The tournament was hosted by the University of Hartford at Bull’s Bridge Club. Playing the course at Bull’s Bridge would not be an easy task for the Knights as it was designed by Tom Fazio, one of golf's most famous architects, responsible for engineering some of the most challenging courses in the world.
Fazio's Bull's Bridge boasts a five-star rating from golfdigest.com, highlighted by its creator's trademark sweeping greens.
“We were there two years ago when we won a tournament, so there’s some good vibes there,” head coach Rob Shutte said before the competition. “It’s a golf course that demands very good driving of the golf ball, very accurate driving of the golf ball. Typical Fazio golf course where you have some pretty big movements in the greens and things like that.”
Putting up some good scores in the early portions of the event would help the golfers gain confidence as the tournament went on and into the latter stages.
“It’s a golf course that, if you can score alright on, you can certainly have some confidence off the tee as well as into the hole. You have to be a really confident putter as well,” Shutte said. “There’s some very high lies and the greens should be in good shape, so a lot of undulation. We’ve got to be prepared for a lot of uneven lies, now a lot of uphill lies, very important.”
The par 72 course features the Berkshire Foothills and is 7,000 yards long.
Rutgers, along with the rest of the field, teed off early on Monday morning. The golfers would have a long day ahead with the first two rounds of the Invitational being played.
The Knights fared extremely well on day one. At the conclusion of the first two rounds, the team was in sixth place tied with Hartford with a 580 score. The Hawks were headlined by senior Will Betts, a selection to the New England Division I Golf All-New England Team, according to Hartford Sports.
Betts finished six under for the tournament, good enough to tie for fourth place overall.
Senior Jonathan Chang had a phenomenal day, shooting a 136 and sat in a tie for second place in the individual standings along with Eric Detrich of UConn. Chang had a minus-two, 70 through the first 18 holes and a six under par, 66 in the second round, which was a program record low.
Sophomores Matt Holuta and Jack Panagos were both in the top 30 after Monday’s play. Sophomore Toks Pedro and junior Ryan Rose earned ties for 58th and 64th respectively at the conclusion of rounds one and two.
The good weather in South Kent made the conditions favorable on the course at Bull’s Bridge Golf Club.
“They did a great job preparing the golf course,” Shutte said. “The greens were rolling really good, so you could make some putts. There were a lot of divots out there, but the grass was up around the greens. … It was good the weather held up. It was good, good experience.”
Last night, the Hartford Hawk Invitational continued with the third round of the event beginning in the wee hours of the morning. The team put together yet another solid outing and finished just outside of the top-five. The Knights shot a plus-10, 874 overall. The golfers put up a 296 and a 284 on Monday and added a 294 on Tuesday.
“Yeah, respectable,” Shutte said on his team’s performance at the event. “There’s a lot of bright spots. … Overall, the attitudes were great, guys competed hard. … The result from this year left us a little hungry because we won this event a few years ago. … A lot of the guys played some pretty good golf at times. So tough golf course and overall, we competed hard. I’m proud of the way we prepared.”
Former American Athletic Conference rivals, Connecticut and Central Florida, had solid turnouts in the tournament. UConn won the event with an 853 team mark and UCF earned second place by putting up an 866.
Chang nearly captured the Individual Championship, but finished just a few strokes short. The Valencia, California, native picked up a top-three finish in third place with an incredible minus-seven, 209 for the tournament. He shot a one over par, 73 in the third round on Tuesday.
“I’m just so happy for him,” Shutte said. “He had a really successful summer last year ... and to be out all spring and not be playing with the bad back, being frustrated and things like that and just not being in a really good place mentally. … I’m just really happy for him as a person.”
Rose put up a 79, a 75 and a 77 for an individual total of 231 and tied for 61st. Holuta shot a 228 with a 74, 70, and an 84 to earn a tie for 49th place in the field. Pedro put up a 78, a 75 and a 71 for a 39th place finish.
Panagos also enjoyed success over the past two days and finishing in 15th place. The Hillsborough, New Jersey, native shot a two over par, 74 in round one followed by a plus-one, 73 and a minus-one, 71 for a total score of 218.
“Jack shot one under today,” Shutte said. “Two over total, which is just great. It’s just one of the things for all the guys, maybe Jack in particular because he hasn’t played a ton like Toks (Pedro) or (Jonathan) Chang has in the years past in the lineup and to go off sight, to leave Rutgers, to go into a different venue and things like that and play good golf. … He’s really poised.”
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