Rutgers eyes first 2015 tournament win on home turf
The savvy Rutgers athletics fan might think this weekend will be a quiet, uneventful one in Piscataway with the football team playing far away from High Point Solutions Stadium.
Not so fast.
There is one team that will be in action on the Banks this Friday and Saturday looking to garner the respect and attention of the Scarlet Knights’ faithful. This group of Knights is the Rutgers women’s golf team.
Head coach Kari Williams and her team will host their home tournament, the Rutgers Invitational, at the Rutgers University Golf Course on Busch campus. The team hopes to end the fall portion of their season with a victory, which would mark its first overall win of the season.
“I’m hoping that we win the Rutgers Invitational,” Williams said. “I mean, that’s what we’re going there to do and to compete. We’re going to have some pretty stiff competition from a couple of the teams that are in the event. Delaware, (James Madison), Farleigh Dickinson is playing really well right now as are even other teams in the event. … It’s a strong field, stronger field than we’ve had in the last few years, purposely, and I’m hoping that we’re going to rise to the occasion and come out victorious.”
The Rutgers Invitational marks the only event the Knights will host this year. Even though the spring season still looms on the horizon for the team, seniors Samantha Moyal, Jacquelyn Mullens, Christina Paulsen, Gabrielle Sacheli and Racquel Zurick will be recognized and honored during a ceremony at the conclusion of the tournament.
“I think this year has just been a really strong year compared to the last three years," Sachelli said. "We’ve grown as a team both on the golf course, in the classroom and we’ve grown closer and we’re a competitive team, so I’m really proud to be a part of this team and to see how far we’ve come over the past four years has been really nice to see, so I think it’ll be a little emotional.”
Playing at the Rutgers University Golf Course should give the Knights a distinct advantage over the rest of the field. The women are very familiar with the course because it is often where they spend much of their practice time.
“That’s exactly what we have,” Williams said on whether being familiar with the course provides an advantage. “Knowing the golf course, being very familiar with the putting greens, the nuances of the course are completely what the home course advantage is in golf.”
The team will have the support of some family, friends and fans who attend the Rutgers Invitational. But compared to other sports, having fans and loved ones in attendance does not factor in to the play much for golf.
“We don’t really have the spectator advantage like you would in football, where you have all those people cheering for you,” Williams said. “We will have quite a few people out there cheering for us, but it’s really more about knowing where you need to be on each hole and being familiar with the golf course.”
Freshman Astrid Aneman will be in the lineup for Rutgers on Friday. She said being precise with her shots is important to having success on the Rutgers University Golf Course.
“You need to be very precise where you hit the ball and where you are able to miss,” Aneman said. “If you miss in the wrong places, it can really cost you strokes. So you need to always have that in mind and if you’re unsure, just play in the middle of the green and commit to every shot because if you don’t, you can really lose some shots.”
In Williams’s mind, the most challenging aspect of the golf course is tackling the greens.
“They’re very, very difficult," she said. "I think that the first two holes kind of lull you to sleep. You think, ‘Oh, okay, this is easy, it’ll be great,’ and then starting with hole three, everything changes from there out. Holes 16, 17 and 18 are some of the most difficult closing holes of the courses that we’ve played. The course is tree-lined, very strategic. Holes 10, 11 and 12 are also very difficult … I think that the greens can really cause some grief for people.”
All nine golfers will see playing time Friday and Saturday when the Knights send out two teams to compete — the Scarlet team (Rutgers A Team) and the White team (Rutgers B Team). The Rutgers Invitational presents Williams with an opportunity to get all players experience and time on the course.
“All nine of our players are going to be competing,” Williams said. “We’re going to have a Scarlet Team and a White team. The Scarlet team will consist of Emily (Mills), Tatum (Jackson), Christina (Paulsen), Astrid (Aneman) and Gabrielle (Sacheli). Our White team will be Racquel (Zurick), Jackie (Mullens), Maddy (Gedeon) and Sam (Moyal). So we have two teams competing, that’s kind of exciting, we’ll see how they do.”
Even better — all of the team’s seniors will be able to compete on Senior Day.
“I’m very excited for our seniors,” Williams said. “... You get one time to be honored as a senior so our one and only event is also our senior afternoon ... I’m very excited to have them get a chance to compete, you know, in their last Rutgers Invitational for our seniors. I think that they’re all going to play very well and they’re very excited and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
People are beginning to notice just how talented this team is and securing a victory this weekend would further prove to the Rutgers community and the Big Ten Conference that the Knights are here to stay.
“(Ending the fall with a win) would be awesome,” Sacheli said. “When I was a freshman, people were like, ‘Oh, you’re on the women’s golf team.’ So we really made a name for ourselves and people are starting to notice and notice how good we are, so I think it’d be really exciting, especially for Rutgers, (to) get our name out there.”
For updates on the Rutgers women’s golf team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.