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Rutgers faces off with Princeton in local tourney

<p>Senior Racquel Zurick registered a career day at the Johnie Imes Invitational with a one under par, 71 in the third round.</p>

Senior Racquel Zurick registered a career day at the Johnie Imes Invitational with a one under par, 71 in the third round.

Princeton and Rutgers — two universities that have opposed each other since 1869 in the first college football game ever played. 

The history and the 18.8-mile proximity to one another bolsters a fierce rivalry between the Scarlet Knights and the Tigers since that first matchup 144 years ago.

This weekend, the rivalry continues on the green.

The Rutgers women’s golf team will take the short, 30-minute trip to Princeton, New Jersey, to compete in the Princeton Invitational on Saturday and Sunday. 

The two-day, three-round tournament will be hosted by the Tigers. Two rounds or 36 holes will be completed on Saturday and the final 18 holes will be played on Sunday.

The Knights have played remarkably well thus far in the fall season, earning several high placements and even setting new program records. Several golfers have broken personal bests this year as well.

The team finished in fourth place at the Nittany Lion Invitational on Sept. 4-6, secured second place in the Diane Thomasen Invitational on Sept. 11-13 and finished in 12th place at the Johnie Imes Invitational on Sept. 27-29.

Rutgers set a program record at the Johnie Imes Invitational with a team total of 893 and broke the record for lowest score in a round with a 292 score on the second 18 holes contested. The team’s previous record-low round score was set earlier this year at the Diane Thomasen Invitational in the second round with a 298.

The superb results this year can be credited to the time the players spent over the summer working to improve their games.

“Coming in, this is now my second season with the team,” said head coach Kari Williams before the Johnie Imes Invitational. “(The team) took a lot of what we worked on last year and applied it over the summer and really re-dedicate themselves to improving their game."

Senior captain Racquel Zurick set a new personal best at the Johnie Imes Invitational, shooting a one under par, 71 in the third round in Columbia, Missouri, on Tuesday. She finished in a tie for 69th place. 

The West Trenton, New Jersey, native secured an eighth place finish and earned all-tournament honors at the Diane Thomasen Invitational, scoring a 226.

Senior Christina Paulsen also had some success in Missouri. Paulsen hit a 228 total and ended up in 64th place. She tied her personal best score for a round in the final 18 holes posting a plus-one, 73. Paulsen secured a top 15 finish in Iowa at the Thomasen Invite with a 228 score.

Williams is very complimentary of the two senior golfers.

“They (Christina Paulsen and Racquel Zurick) were our low scores for today (third round at the Johnie Imes Invitational),” Williams said. “Racquel set a personal best and one of the lowest scores under par — first under par score I’ve coached at Rutgers with her minus-one today. Christina held together, you know, and birdied the second-to-last hole in order to get back to plus-one.”

Zurick and Paulsen did an excellent job of bouncing back in the final round. The resiliency showed by the two seniors is an excellent sign of things to come for Rutgers.

“Again, we had a really great round from all of our people today,” said Williams. “It was great and those two (Christina Paulsen and Racquel Zurick) especially stepped up after having not played very well the day before.”

The Knights will be up against some fierce competitors at the Princeton Invitational on Saturday. The Tigers have historically dominated in its home event. According to goprincetontigers.com, the team has won eight of the first 17 home invites, with their last championship coming as recent as 2007.

Alex Wong has been one of Princeton’s strongest golfers throughout her career. Led by head coach Erika DeSanty, the Tigers played in their first event of the fall on Sept. 20 at the Bucknell Invitational where the team finished in second place with a 922. Princeton was just three strokes shy of winning the event and suffered a tough defeat at the hands of Farleigh Dickinson.

Princeton will have another chance to top Bucknell this weekend, as the team will be playing in the tournament. Notable schools competing are Navy, Seton Hall, Penn, Columbia, Harvard and Yale. Teams will tee off at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Sophomores Tatum Jackson and captain Emily Mills hopes to continue their consistent play this weekend. Jackson and Mills have arguably been the team’s two best golfers thus far.

Mills led the Knights in Missouri on Monday and Tuesday finishing in 38th place, shooting a 222 for the tournament. Jackson had a 75 in each of the three rounds and earned 51st in the standings with a 225.

“I just think that they continue to be solid performances for us,” Williams said on Jackson and Mills. “They’re steady in their play and they continue to lead us on the course and I think it’s always nice to know that they’re in the lineup because, you know, you’re going to get a good score with them.”

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

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