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Pair of teams capitalize off veteran rosters

The Rutgers men’s and women’s golf teams tee off for the first time this weekend to begin their respective seasons on the road.

The men’s team makes its season debut at the STX Match Play Tournament in Towson, Md. The Knights last competed on May 1, closing out the Big East Championship in 11th place.

Head coach Rob Shutte is eager to see the team get back on the course.

“I think that obviously we’re going to continue what we started,” he said. “I think that they guys [are coming] in with a much better understanding of how we operate the program as professionals and how we carry ourselves and prepare ourselves to play.”

The second-year head coach led a team last season with a core of sophomores. With all of those players returning for another year, he expects the upperclassmen to be a critical part of the roster.

“We’re looking for them to carry the torch in terms of leadership,” Shutte said. “[Senior] John Fagan comes in as a captain, but he needs support there.”

Fagan was a catalyst last season for the Knights. He competed in all five events last spring and recorded a 79.4 stroke average.

Shutte is not too concerned with how the Knights perform. He is optimistic and believes that as long as they compete hard, they should be successful in their first outing of the year.

On the other side, the women’s team makes its first appearance on the course at the Bucknell Invitational in Lewisburg, Pa.

Entering her 21st season, head coach Maura Ballard hopes the Knights pick up where they left off at the conclusion of the spring season.

“Well, we finished up on a very high note last spring,” she said. “So I want to continue our great play from last spring. I have three returning starters and I’m looking forward to them continuing their great play, and I have five freshmen in the lineup this year. So hopefully we’ll get some good play from them, as well.”

Sophomore Kortnie Maxoutopoulis is on returning starter. The Pleasanton, Calif. native made an instant impact last season as a freshman.

She was named to the 2012 All-Big East Conference Women’s Golf Team, a unanimous decision made by the league’s eight head coaches.

Maxoutopoulis had seven top 10 finishes, including two wins, and enters the fall with a team-high 154 Regional Golfstat rank.

As well as she played last season, Maxoutopoulis worked on her game during the offseason to enhance her skills and contribute more this fall.

“I worked with [the staff] this summer, and it added kind of a new dynamic to my game,” she said. “It allowed me to better understand the specifics of golf and helped me understand my game.”

Ballard understands the game can challenge golfers mentally as well as physically. She encourages the team to remain focused.

“One of the main things that we talk about and try to keep in the forefront of our mindset [is] just keeping a positive attitude and staying in the present moment,” Ballard said. “Playing golf is very challenging because it takes a long time and there is time between each shot. So if you’re struggling, it’s pretty easy to get down on yourself.”

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