Rutgers attempts to find stroke as spring season progresses
Competition is heating up.
With just a little over a month to go until the end of its season, the Rutgers women’s golf team hopes the spring sun will bring bright performances to close the year.
After the long hours of winter practice during the offseason, the golfers are looking to hone in on their skills in order to continue its stellar play in the final stretch of the year.
“Spring golf is a little tough because of the weather conditions and the fact that we don’t practice a whole lot of chipping and putting,” said head coach Kari Williams. “But I think we’ve done a great job working with what we have. We’ve had a lot of practices inside the bubble and I feel really good about their short game and their shots 100 yards and in.”
Williams has done an exceptional job during her first year as the program’s coach. The team turned in a solid fall season of golf, which included top-two finishes at the St. John’s Invitational and the Rutgers Invitational.
The St. John’s Invitational was played on Oct. 6 and 7 at St. Andrew’s Golf Club last fall. Despite poor weather conditions with winds gusting up to 30 mph, three Knights earned top-ten finishes.
Junior Gabrielle Sachelli shot an 81 in the first round and a 74 in the second round for a total score of 155 to finish in sixth overall. Sophomore Taylor Clark earned a top-eight finish with an 80 in round one followed by a 76 in the second round for a combined score of 156.
As a team, Rutgers finished second in the standings with a 629 but fell to in-state rival Seton Hall.
The Knights picked up another second place finish four days later at the Rutgers Invitational. Rutgers defended its home course well with a 609 team score while two of its golfers concluded the tournament in the top-10.
Sachelli shot a plus one, 72 on day one and a plus four, 75 on day two for a 147, enough to earn a top-three finish in the standings.
Two freshmen, Emily Mills and Tatum Jackson, stepped up and had solid fall seasons.
Jackson hales from Mountain Brook, Alabama, and was the No. 1 ranked golfer in the state in both her junior and senior years in high school. One of her best outings of the year occurred when she shot a 78 at the Yale Women’s Fall Intercollegiate in September.
A native of Colts Neck, New Jersey, Mills finished in a tie for 13th at the Fighting Camel Classic in October by shooting an 80-73-76 for a 229 total mark.
Since then, Williams has seen her progress.
“Emily Mills has been fairly consistent for us with some good scores,” Williams said. “I think Emily has probably had the most success individually this year and I’d like to continue to see her have that as well as some of the other players step up and play a little bit better.”
So far, Rutgers has competed in two tournaments this spring with mixed results.
The team traveled to Kiawah Island, South Carolina for the Kiawah Spring Classic on March 2 and 3. The Knights carded a 948 in the three-round, forty-team tournament and finished toward the bottom of the standings in 27th place.
No golfer finished in the top-10, top-20 or even top-30 for Rutgers. In fact, the member of the team who earned the highest placement in the standings was Mills, in a tie for 66th.
Mills’ finish is slightly deceiving with over 200 total golfers in the field. She shot an 80 in the first round, a 78 in round two and a 76 in the final round.
Junior Jaquelyn Mullens and sophomore Christina Paulsen both finished outside of the 150. Mullens shot an 89-79-82 for a 250 total and tie for 165th place in the standings. Paulsen put up a 252 total score.
Despite Mullens’ struggles in the Kiawah Spring Classic, Williams likes how the junior has played in some areas.
“We’ve seen a couple of good rounds out of Jackie Mullens and I expect her to continue to contribute to the team,” said Williams.
The Knights’ quality of play improved in Florida at the Bearcat Spring Classic last weekend. Rutgers posted a 958 team score with a 319 in the first round, a 329 in the second round and a good round three with 310 for a 13th place finish.
Williams called a team meeting after the golfers’ subpar performance in the second round in order to get them to re-focus. The talk worked its magic as the Knights turned it around on the final day of play.
“We played an okay first round, struggled a little bit finishing the round which resulted in some higher scores than I wanted,” Williams said. “We did not have a good round the second round but we came back and finished. … Emily, Racquel and Christina all shot 76 on the last day and I think all three of them birdied their last hole to get from 77 to 76.”
Paulsen performed well in the tournament and placed in a tie for 28th place.
“Christina Paulsen had a really good event and a great finishing round,” said Williams. “She’s not playing her best, but she’s definitely stepped up her game which is helpful to the team a lot.”
Mills shot an 80-82-76 for a 238 total to finish in a tie for 40th. Mullens concluded the tournament in a tie for 63rd place with a 244 total while Jackson finished in the 80th spot after shooting a 253.
Rutgers ventures to Williamsburg, Virginia, for the Middleburg Bank Intercollegiate on Monday. Williams believes that her team needs to focus on the mental side of golf more so than the physical aspects during practice this week in order to achieve a successful turnout.
“We’re still just learning to be better ball strikers,” Williams said. “Our focus has been to be about the process of golf, which is more about making decisions and committing to those decisions and executing golf shots. We just need to continue to do that. The women have very good swings and have basically sound fundamentals in their golf. Golf is so much on the mental side of kind of believing what you’re doing and trusting yourself. So, we will continue to work on that.”
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