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Eagles Have Historic Day with Win at Shenandoah

the eagles with their championship trophies at shenandoah

WINCHESTER, Va. - Winning golf tournaments among ODAC and other regional golf teams is very hard to do; in fact, Bridgewater men's golf has been a competitive team in D-III golf for the past 20 years and they have not won a tournament since the McDaniel Spring Invitational in 2012- until today.

Opening the 2019-20 season at the Shenandoah Invitational, the Eagles trailed Ferrum College by three strokes after the first round, but on Monday they first closed the gap, then pulled away from the field, ultimately finishing nine strokes clear of University of Lynchburg. The team score of 293 (+9) was the only sub-300 performance of the tournament, and it allowed the Eagles to ring the bell at Memorial Hall after a seven-year wait.

"We talked about this at the season-opening team meeting," said head coach John Rogers. "We knew this was a team capable of winning tournaments and producing medalists. Did we necessarily expect to open the season with a win? Maybe not, but we believed it was coming."

The Eagles actually achieved both of the team goals this week as junior Jason Spaar finished with seven straight pars to hold off Harry Hodgert of Lynchburg (who led most of the tournament) for the individual title. Spaar followed a 72 round yesterday with a very uneventful round of 71 (even par) on Monday. He only made two bogeys in the final round and he balanced them both with birdies on the ensuing holes.

Rogers stated that Spaar played an extremely smart tournament, managing the course well, hitting quality shots, and most importantly scrambling well when he missed the greens. On this historic day at Winchester Country Club, Spaar earned Bridgewater's first medalist honors since fellow Roanoke product Elijah Tackett won a tournament in 2014.

Junior Jacob Laughlin, playing his first event as an Eagle, had a roller-coaster round, but came in with an even-par score of 71 that moved him into a tie for fourth among 78 competitors. Laughlin was motoring along at -2 through eight holes when he bladed a wedge shot into the woods on #9; this led to a triple bogey.

Laughlin then hit his approach on #10 to two and a half feet, but burned the edge on his birdie attempt. Feeding off his anger at the time, he hit his drive on the 357-yard 11th hole to 40 yards, from where he hit a low, check-and-release wedge shot that dropped into the cup for an eagle. He had gone from -2 to +1, to -1 in three holes. Laughlin added a final birdie on the 17th hole when the Eagles were trying to seal the match.

Senior Ronald Uszenski was the third of four Bridgewater players to finish in the top-10 at Shenandoah, after twin rounds of 75. Trying to implement some technique changes this week, Uszenski was three-over par after five holes on Monday, but dropped a couple birdie putts on the back nine to hold the round together. "Ronnie knew he was not at the top of his game this week, but we needed his leadership anyway, and he came through with some solid golf," noted Rogers.

Sophomore Seth Smallwood played his last six holes at -1 to help the Eagles clinch the win. His score of 76 was a six-stroke improvement from Sunday. Likewise, junior Brendan Draughn started the day with nine straight pars, and his score of 78 was six shots better than the first round.

The Eagles ended up with five players in the top-11 at Shenandoah, but the final two were freshmen playing on the 'B Team'. Jackson Soska opened his career with very solid rounds of 75-77 to place in a tie for ninth. Jacob Sears posted 74-79 to finish in a tie for 11th.

The B Team, which shot 318 on Monday and finished in ninth place among 12 teams, also got a strong performance from freshman Alex Czerwinski, who shot 80-77 in his first competition of 2019. Sophomore Blake Sawyer came in with an 85 in the final round and junior Matthew Sengul posted a 94.

In beating perennially-strong Christopher Newport, a Lynchburg team that was ranked ahead of Bridgewater last season, and an impressively rebuilt Ferrum team, the Eagles could thank their performance on the par-5 holes: they were -5 on the longer holes while the next best team cumulative was +4.

"This was a great experience for our players," said Rogers. "Early in the round we built a five-shot lead, but we let it slip and briefly fell back to third place; it was a real gut-check at the end when the guys played the final holes under par to claim the win. Hopefully it sets a tone for the season ahead, and it sure is satisfying."

The Eagles are back in action on September 16 at their home tournament, the Tom Kinder Memorial.