Rutgers looks to build upon momentum from strong start

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights Women's Golf team portraits at Rutgers Golf Course on Tuesday, September 3, 2015.
Ben Solomon/Rutgers Athletics
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights Women's Golf team portraits at Rutgers Golf Course on Tuesday, September 3, 2015. Ben Solomon/Rutgers Athletics

Sustaining a hot streak is harder than starting one.

The Rutgers women’s golf team has been swinging scorching hot clubs in the early portion of the fall season. The Scarlet Knights picked up two exceptional finishes thus far in the first two tournaments they participated in. 

The golfers secured fourth place at the Nittany Lion Invitational on Sept. 6 and earned second place at the Diane Thomason Invitational on Sept. 13.

“I’m happy,” said head coach Kari Williams. “We’ve set program scoring records. The one thing about being the golf coach is you always want them to play better. In setting those records, we still missed, had a couple kids miss one-foot putts and we three putted and we still left some shots out there. So knowing that we can play even better is really exciting.”

Rutgers already played against two Big Ten teams thus far at Penn State and Iowa. Williams made it a priority for the Knights to gain a familiarity with conference opponents to prior to the Big Ten Championship this season.

“This schedule is by design,” Williams said. “I decided last year that we would enter the Big Ten’s having not faced a Big Ten team before we got there. I knew that this year and moving forward for the rest of, you know, Rutgers women’s golf, we were gonna play the toughest schedule we could possibly play. … We are gonna go play as tough as we can play and just see how we fall against people and I think that’s going to prepare us for the Big Ten’s this spring.”

Next up for the Knights is the Johnie Imes Invitational on Sunday in Columbia, Missouri. The event will be hosted by Southeastern Conference program Missouri. The tournament honors Johnie Imes, a big supporter of Mizzou women’s golf, who passed away in 2011.

The Tigers won their home invitational last September with a minus-18, 846 scorecard.

Being unfamiliar with the golf course before you play is always a difficult task to defeat, according to Williams.

“The challenge is always this — you get to see the course one time and then you have to go play it,” Williams said. “Different from any other sport … when you go play golf, the yardages could be different. The greens, the kind of grass, the speed of the greens. … We have every variable, times 100 of any other sport that we have to deal with.”

Williams also mentioned the weather as being a concern heading into the event.

“I think that the weather will be our biggest challenge because we play 36, 18 and if it’s too hot, they’re dehydrating and can’t concentrate and if it’s too cold, you’re freezing and can’t concentrate," she said. "So you’re always battling the elements. It’s a pretty tough field. We’ve our work cut out for us."

Rutgers will be going with a comparable lineup to the one used at Iowa. The one change is with senior Gabrielle Sachelli who will be among the starting five in place of freshman Astrid Aneman.

“It’s going to be Emily (Mills), Tatum (Jackson), Christina (Paulsen), Racquel (Zurick) and Gabrielle (Sachelli),” Williams said. “So we’re gonna have three seniors in the lineup and two sophomores. None of them have played the course, so they’re all kind of on the same level there. But I think it’s a strong lineup. It’s as strong as we’ve had. Like I said, I think that there’s probably six or seven of them now that are interchangeable parts which is kind of exciting.”

Senior Christina Paulsen played at a high level at the Diane Thomason Invitational, capturing a tie for 13th place alongside sophomore teammate Emily Mills. Paulsen put up a 77 in the first two rounds and capped off the event with a 74 for a total score of 228.

The Ridgewood, New Jersey, native thinks the Knights improved a great deal from the spring season. The boost in performance is evident to her — even at this point in early autumn.

“I think we’ve been playing a lot better than last year,” Paulsen said. “I think this summer we all worked really hard as a team to make a statement I guess about (how) we’re here to compete and that we’ve already set a record score with our second tournament is fantastic. So it’s already the fall and we still have the spring season left and everything.”

Sophomore Tatum Jackson, who earned a tie for 18th place in Iowa with a 229 believes the Knights simply need to continue along the same path they've been on in the last two tournaments to amass yet another high finish in Missouri.

“Everyone just needs to continue doing what they have been,” Jackson said. “I mean, most people are playing really solid and it’s just about keeping that focus and momentum going for the entire 36-hole day and then the 18-day. Just continuing to focus on every shot and don’t leave anything out there.”

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

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