Rutgers carries momentum into conference championship

<p>At the Rutherford Invitational, senior Jacob Stockl had a strong finish to place 20th with a score of 223 as Rutgers finished third in the tournament.</p>

At the Rutherford Invitational, senior Jacob Stockl had a strong finish to place 20th with a score of 223 as Rutgers finished third in the tournament.

This is the final test.

The Rutgers men’s golf team will tee-off for the last time in the 2014-15 season at the Big Ten Championship this weekend in Newburgh, Ind.

The Scarlet Knights will face the most difficult task of the year — maybe even in program history.

Rutgers will play the best teams that the Big Ten Conference has to offer, and it seems ready for the challenge. The Knights’ clubs have been red-hot in the month of April with golfers earning high placements in the last three tournaments they have competed in.

Earlier this month, the team picked up a top-10 finish at the Redhawk Invitational. Rutgers shot a plus-77, 917 in the tournament with a round one 301, a round two 295 and a round three 321. 

Senior Jacob Stockl shot a plus-13, 223 for the event and earned himself 15th place.

The Knights finished in fourth place at the Princeton Invitational on April 12 after hitting a stellar 590. Freshman Toks Pedro placed fourth in the standings with a plus-two, 142.

Last weekend, Rutgers earned a top-three finish at the Rutherford Intercollegiate. In State College, Pa., sophomore Michael Howe put together a phenomenal scorecard to shoot a three-over par 216 and finished in a tie for fifth in the individual standings.

“Oh, definitely," he said, when asked if the finish gives him confidence heading into the Big Ten Championships. "Yeah, it makes me feel good about the state of my game. I think there’s a few aspects I can sharpen but, overall I’m pretty excited about next week.

Before teeing off in Indiana on Friday, Howe says he needs to work on his putting to have a successful turnout.

Stockl shot a 223 and finished in 20th place, rising five spots in the standings from 25th place on the final day of the event. 

“There were really no adjustments,” Stockl said. “I knew all the rounds were going to play really tough … I knew I had to try to make a lot of pars, and that’s pretty much what I did.”

The Big Ten Championship will be hosted by Victoria National Golf Club. A 7,209-yard course designed by golf architect Tom Fazio in 1998, Victoria National is in Golf Digest’s “America’s Grestest Golf Courses” list at No. 45 and is No. 11 in the magazine’s “Top 50 Modern Clubs."

Amazingly, the course was built on what used to be a mine and is ranked the top golf course in Indiana. 

The Knights will play in mostly good conditions over the weekend with the weather forecast to be sunny and in the mid 60s on Friday and Sunday. On Saturday, Rutgers will have to endure the elements. High winds, rain and thunderstorms are in the forecast, which will create some messy conditions on the course.

The Knights round out a solid spring season by hitting their stride at the right time. With only one senior on the roster in Stockl, many expected head coach Rob Shutte and his program to be in rebuilding mode but the team received a boost from it underclassmen players — even the team’s freshmen have made solid contributions this season.

If the team can play like it did during the month of April and the underclassmen continue to match the veterans in level of play, Rutgers can have a good outing this weekend.

“Yeah, we’ve started to see some good play from a number of guys. We’ve seen some good play at times here from Jacob," Shutte said. "It was good to see Michael (Howe) have that this week and kind of solidify his confidence level. We’ve had some other freshman, Matt Holuta, second round shooting was his low tournament round as a freshman. That was good to see some of those break through rounds as well. I wish we had a longer spring here, too, but we have one tournament left. No doubt, though, we’re on the uptake.”

For updates on the Rutgers men’s golf team, follow @TargumSports on Twitter.

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