Rutgers battles elements to place fifth

<p>Senior Jonathan Chang tied for 17th place with sophomore Matt Holuta to lead Rutgers. Chang and Holuta shot a plus-6, 146 for the Knights.</p>

Senior Jonathan Chang tied for 17th place with sophomore Matt Holuta to lead Rutgers. Chang and Holuta shot a plus-6, 146 for the Knights.

The second time is the charm.

Two tournaments in a row, harsh weather and conditions clashed with the Rutgers men’s golf team. At the Badger Invitational on Sept. 27-29, the golfers were plagued by the rain and high winds and fell from fifth place to 11th in the standings. The Scarlet Knights struggled and failed to secure a good finish.

But things were different this weekend at the Macdonald Cup.

This time, the Knights did not permit the stormy conditions to hinder their way as the team earned fifth place in New Haven, Connecticut, on Friday and Saturday. The team shot a plus-27, 587 with a 299 in round one followed by a 288 in the second round.

“I mean, we knew going into the tournament that it was going to be tough conditions,” said senior Jonathan Chang. “Coming from the west coast, I haven’t played in too many tough conditions like that. Since I’ve been here for three years, I’ve played in those conditions … I’ve played in similar conditions as that, so team wise, we prepared pretty well.”

The event was cut down from three rounds to two rounds due to the impending storms. Play began on Friday afternoon at 1:15 p.m., but the round was suspended later in the day as the conditions of the course were unfit for the golfers to compete.

On Saturday morning at 9 a.m., Rutgers returned to the course and had to complete the rest of the first round before beginning round two. With all of the schedule changes along with the bad weather, it would be understandable if a golfer was affected. The Knights closed the gates and did not allow any of the negatives to get in the way.

That fact certainly speaks volumes about the team’s mental toughness.

“Well, I mean, you definitely can’t be, you know, mentally weak in those conditions,” said sophomore Toks Pedro. “You have to embrace the weather. You have to know that everybody else is playing in these conditions and that’s the fair situation and that’s the only way you can really play well in them. You can’t really, you know, get to down on yourself for mistakes or get too high on great shots. You have to stay level headed and realize it’s going to be a grind.”

Head Coach Rob Shutte thinks the team’s effort says a lot about their toughness.

“It says a lot,” he said. “Coming after the final round in the really tough conditions in Wisconsin, you know, I thought we were a mentally tough team but, it didn’t really prove out in the final third round, so I was really curious to see. … Yesterday, it really didn’t rain hard, it was just kind of a sea spray, but it was gusting quite a bit and it was cold … I was proud that we were able to move forward. The scoring was a little better the second day, we moved up 11 shots or something like that, and I was just happy that we moved forward and the guys got better.”

Pedro posted the best scorecard for Rutgers in the second straight event, securing a tie for seventh place with eight other golfers. The Lagos, Nigeria, native hit an even 70 in round one and followed suit with a four over par, 74 in the second round for plus-4, 144 total score.

“I think I had a good performance,” Pedro said. “Obviously, it wasn’t a win but in golf, that’s extremely hard, especially all the time, but I’m very proud of how I played in those tough, tough conditions. I really competed hard. I was proud of how our team bounced back after the first round. We had not our best first round and we had a strong second round. … We moved up the leaderboard, so that was awesome.”

Chang and sophomore Matt Holuta both finished in ties for 17th place in the standings with scores of plus-6, 146. Chang had an even, 70 in round one and added a plus-6, 76 in the second round.

“It was good,” Chang said on his performance. “It was a tough grind. I mean, it’s tough because I want to work on things, but I have to still compete and my coach knows that there’s things I need to work on with the body, especially when we’re working with Ben Shear (Chang’s swing coach). I’m like half in it, half not, kind of thing but I know that I’m with the team and everyone is still working on things.”

Holuta had a five over par, 75 in the first round and a one over par 71, in round two. Senior Louis Bodine secured a tie for 54th place with a 155 and sophomore Jack Panagos shot a 158 to tie for 64th in the standings.

Harvard won the Macdonald Cup with a plus-8, 568 team total. Marco Iten of Sterling University in Scotland won the Individual championship with a minus-2, 138.

Chang is continuing to work on improving his swing after his return from injury.

“The first day of the tournament, I mentally wasn’t really there,” he said. “In the second round, I felt like I really turned it up and I just gotta push through with some of the battles that I have with the swing and stuff like that, so it was good, it was good.”

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

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