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Rutgers reflects on fall half of season

In the game of football, halftime is the period of time between the second and third quarter spent making little tweaks and adjustments here and there. 

A pondering wide receiver could figure out a way to beat an opposing cornerback during this time, or an offensive lineman might discover how to outsmart a fierce defensive lineman in the trenches by thinking about the player’s strengths and weaknesses.

Coaches discuss the good and the bad with their team, but cannot make any major changes in the scheme or game plan due to the 15-minute time constraint.

In collegiate golf, it is much different.

Because the season is split into two portions — fall and spring — golfers at the college level have a halftime of sorts with close to a three-month hiatus in between seasons. With the lengthy time off from competition, golfers have the opportunity to make major adjustments in their games if needed or just make a few changes in some areas.

For the Rutgers men’s golf team, its halftime has just begun.

The Scarlet Knights concluded the fall portion of its season on Oct. 19 to 20 in Rockville, Maryland, at the Maryland Invitational.

Heading into the event, head coach Rob Shutte said ending the first portion of the year with a win would be a satisfying way to finish up.

“Yeah, it would be really nice,” Shutte said. “We’re not that far off. The last couple events … we were respectable but we didn’t win so it’ll be really nice. I think our team is coming together … It’s hard to say I want to win. I want them to be in contention in that final round and be in the hunt and have a shot in the final 18, final nine holes.”

Playing with few mistakes in any tournament would be key to the Knights' success in Maryland.

“We’re going to have to play clean golf and be able to get that fourth score,” Shutte said.

Unfortunately for Rutgers, was not able to conjure that fourth score. But the team earned a respectable seventh-place finish out of the 11 teams that competed, scoring a 30 over par, 606 as a unit.

The golfers were in contention throughout the tournament and were in fifth place at the end of Day One. Sophomores Toks Pedro and Matt Holuta had the top finishes for the Knights in Maryland.

Playing in his home state, Pedro secured a top-five finish in a tie for fifth place. He shot a plus-two, 146 in the two rounds. Finishing one stroke behind Pedro, Holuta picked up seventh place with a three over par, 147 scorecard.

“Yesterday, (we) were in fifth,” Holuta said. “We were only four shots out of the lead, which is — four shots is basically nothing in college golf — so I mean that was a good spot. Then today, if you look at the scores and the positions, it just wasn’t quite there. It was not our day but I just gotta look at it as a positive ... Hopefully a finish like this will maybe give us a little bit of fire going into the offseason to really work hard and have a good spring.”

A huge aspiration for Pedro is to become one of the best golfers in the nation in due time. This aspiration is doable, Shutte said.

“Oh yeah, I think he can,” Shutte said. “Sometimes, it’s hard to define what’s one of the best golfers in the country. There’s rankings and things like that, but sometimes they’re really skewed too because you still have the head to heads against everyone in the country so I don’t think he’s that far off. He’s gotta get a couple wins … he’s gotta good set of skills. When they build on, he has the ability to be a really special player.”

To kick off the fall, Rutgers placed second at their home tournament, the Rutgers Invitational. On Sept. 21, the Knights secured a sixth-place finish at the Hartford Hawk Invitational. Senior Jonathan Chang led his team at the event, capturing third place. 

At the MacDonald Cup, Rutgers picked up a fifth-place finish and at the Badger Invitational, the tournament prior, where the golfers concluded the event in 11th place.

During the winter months, Rutgers will utilize its state-of-the-art practice facilities inside of the Indoor Practice Bubble by High Point Solutions Stadium to remain sharp. 

The team’s new independent strength and conditioning consultant Ben Shear will ensure that the Knights are in tip-top shape for the upcoming tournaments this spring.

“We just got Ben Shear working with our team,” Holuta said. “(He’s) a fantastic trainer in the golf world so it’s gonna be really big to work on the physical part, like with our bodies and getting stronger and a little bit more flexible, so that’s gonna be huge. Then just working on some little things in my game, a couple swing tweaks, a little bit of putting stuff — just really trying to get myself in a position that I need to be in all aspects coming for the spring.”

Holuta has put on some muscle over the past few months and plans on continuing that process in the weight room in the winter.

“Oh definitely, I have put on some weight. I’ve built some strength, I’m hitting the ball a lot further now,” he said. “It’s tough to stay in the weight room with how busy we are but now that it’s the offseason, I’ll definitely get back in there and try to build up some more strength and just overall have a more ready body for next season.”

Pedro said that delving into his swing and learning its nuances is important during the time off.

“During the winter, you can’t really work on too many things in your game," Pedro said. "You can really improve your short game and putting and stuff but long game is a little bit limited … I think that overall just learning more about your swing and really focusing on how to shoot good scores, use what you did wrong last season and use that to improve your game for the future seasons and work really hard on weaknesses as well. That’ll be a huge thing for us.”

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

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