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Rutgers grows through progression of spring season

<p>Freshman Emily Mills finished her first year on the banks in a tie for 46th place at the Big Ten Championships in Indianapolis.</p>

Freshman Emily Mills finished her first year on the banks in a tie for 46th place at the Big Ten Championships in Indianapolis.

Entering the spring portion of its season, the Rutgers women’s golf team had to battle elements of all kinds. 

With the University Golf Course covered in snow and ice, the Scarlet Knights had to resort to other means to practice their golf game. Using the Indoor Practice Bubble and indoor golf facilities, the golfers had a safe haven to work out for the start of the spring.

“Spring golf is a little tough because of the weather conditions (and because of) the fact that we don’t practice a whole lot of chipping and putting,” head coach Kari Williams said this past winter. “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.”

The weather began to heat up as the months progressed — and so did the Knights' clubs.

Rutgers competed in its final event of the 2014-15 season last weekend. The team played at the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Fort Golf Resort, one of the top-ranked courses in the state.

Williams decided to go with a lineup consisting of freshman Emily Mills, junior Racquel Zurick, junior Christina Paulsen, junior Gabrielle Sachelli, freshman Tatum Jackson and junior Jacquelyn Mullens.

The Knights began play at the three-day, three-round tournament on Friday morning.

Mills teed off first for Rutgers and shot a plus-six, 78 in the first round, compiling 11 pars and birdying the fourth hole. Zurick hit nine pars and four birdies in the first round with a plus-two, 74. Paulsen shot a five-over, 77 in round one by hitting 11 pars and two birdies.

Sachelli shot a plus-nine, 81 in round one with eight pars and a birdie on 16th hole. Jackson hit a plus-eight, 80. She had two birdies and eight pars on the day, while Mullens had a 12 over par 84 with nine pars.

The Knights ended up in 14th place after Friday’s portion of the tournament with a team score of 309. Ohio State was the leader after day one and shot a 281 as a unit.

Mills played well in the second round on Saturday with a plus-four, 76. She sank birdies on four holes and had six pars that afternoon. Zurick had a nine-over par 81 in round two with seven pars, in addition to birdying the 10th hole.

Sachelli put up a plus-12 84 with eight pars. Jackson shot an eight-over, 80 and had 10 pars. Mullens birdied the fifth hole and had a plus-17, 89 on Saturday.

Rutgers remained in 14th place after the second round. The golfers put up a score of 313 and raised their total to a plus-46, 622. The Buckeyes led the field with a three under 573 after shooting a 292 in round two. 

Despite being in a deep hole entering play in the third round, the Knights put together a good score card on Sunday.

Mills rounded out her solid showing at the Big Ten Championship with a strong final round. After three rounds, she hit a plus-13 and finished in a tie for 46th place.

Zurick concluded the event with a plus-23 and tied for 72nd place. She hit a 12 over par 84 on Sunday with eight pars.

Paulsen had a plus-four 76 in round three and played good golf. She compiled 13 pars on the day and a birdie on the sixth hole. Paulsen finished in a tie for 46th alongside her teammate Emily Mills with 13 over par at the Big Ten Championship.

Mullens tied with her teammate, Sachelli, in 83rd place by shooting a plus-37. Mullens had an eight over par 80 on Sunday and hit 13 pars.

Rutgers finished in 14th place in their first appearance at the Big Ten Championships. The Knights competed well in the third round with plus-16, 304 and ended up with a 62 over par 926.

At the conclusion of the Big Ten Championship, Rutgers' inaugural campaign as a member of the conference had come to a close. As a unit, it mostly finished in the middle of the field in most tournaments it competed in this season.

Individually, several Knights poured in successful seasons in 2014-15. 

As the season progressed, Mills became one of her team’s best players. The rookie led Rutgers in nearly every event.

“Emily Mills has been fairly consistent for us with some good scores,” Williams said after the Bearcat Spring Classic. “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.”

Zurick played solid golf for the Knights this year, joining Mills as one of the most consistent golfers on the team. The junior’s best turnout came at the Middleburg Bank Intercollegiate where she earned a top-10 finish. 

Zurick hit a plus-seven, 79 in the first round followed by a plus-one, 73 and a plus-six, 78 for a 230 total score.

“She had a top-10 finish, and I think it was a personal best for her as far as three days of an event,” Williams said after the Middleburg Bank Intercollegiate. “She just really commanded and took care of the ball, played well, played smart. She made quite a few birdies but was really calm and composed out there. I was really happy for here and her success.”

Williams was also impressed with the progression of Paulsen from the fall to the spring.

“Christina’s game has really come on strong from looking from the fall to the spring,” she said after the Seton Hall Pirate Invitational. “(She’s had) a solid spring posting a lot of really good scores. You know, the kind of scores that you want your number three player to post. Somewhere between 76 and 78 is a good score for us, and we’ve been able to count on her for scores quite a bit this spring. It’s been real nice.”

This offseason, the golfers will likely need to tune up all the aspects of their games including becoming improved ball strikers which is an aspect Williams emphasized to her team earlier this year.

“We’re still just learning to be better ball strikers,” Williams said after the Bearcat Spring Classic. “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.”

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

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