HARRISONBURG, Va. - On the final hole of the first round in the Tom Kinder Memorial, the Bridgewater golf team dropped four strokes and fell from second to eighth place. After stumbling on Monday afternoon, their mandate for the final round on Tuesday then was to make up the lost ground, and they responded with a team score of 292 at Lakeview Golf Club- the low score of the day- to climb back into a second place finish.
Late in the round on Tuesday, the Eagles were in a tie for third when junior Jason Spaar arrived at the par-4 5th hole (his 17th hole after a shotgun start). The tee was moved up for the final round and the hole played just 281 yards, albeit into a strong breeze and over a lake. Spaar, playing in the final group for the Eagles discussed making the risky play (going for the green) or the safe option (hitting an iron to the fairway) with head coach John Rogers.
Several Eagles had already tried to drive the green without making any birdies, but Spaar decided to take the risky shot as well; he then hit a towering, cut drive that parked itself six feet from the pin. When Spaar dropped the sliding putt for eagle, Bridgewater pulled out of their tie and leapfrogged into second place. In the end, the Eagles passed six teams and only fell five shots short of McDaniel College, a team that was ranked sixty one spots higher than Bridgewater this spring.
While Spaar provided the final push for Bridgewater, it was emergent freshman Jacob Sears who led the charge on the final day of the home tournament. In a matter of two weeks, Sears has gone from being a walk-on invited to try out for the team, to being one of the top rookies in the ODAC. On Tuesday Sears made five birdies, and posted twin scores of 35 on each nine to shoot 70 (-2), which was the fourth best score in the field. "I knew Jacob was a good player, and a good athlete," said Rogers, "but honestly I thought he might take a season or two to contribute to our tournament play. His performance starting his career- back to back top-20 finishes- is so impressive. We are lucky to have him on the team." Sears' scores of 78-70 led him to a T-18 finish.
Jacob Laughlin is another new Eagle who is making his mark. Laughlin matched Sears' score on the Mountain Course (-1) and was two over par on the Lake Course with a double-bogey on the par-5 5th hole. Laughlin is just seven over par through two tournaments with his new team, and his 73 on Tuesday earned him a share of 14th place among 88 competitors.
Spaar came in next for the Eagles with a score of 74 (+2), playing his final six holes at -1, including the clutch eagle on #5.
Following an even par opening round, senior Ronald Uszenski played another solid round Tuesday, posting a 75 marred only by a double-bogey on #5 when his drive went out of bounds. "Ronnie has been playing the role you want from a senior," said Rogers. "He has not been happy at all with his ball-striking and shot patterns, and in his early college years he would have worn his frustration on his sleeve; but he has been grinding hard for his team and has posted nothing higher than 75 so far this season. When his patterns tighten up, he might go low for us, but right now he's still playing a crucial role." Uszenski finished in a tie for 14th.
Freshman Jackson Soska rounded out the starting lineup for Bridgewater. He got off to a slow start on Tuesday, but played his final twelve holes at even par, and a score of 79 placed him in a tie for 40th.
For the second straight tournament, the Eagles entered a second team. The 'B Team' shot 317 in the final round to finish 11th among 17 teams. They were led by former East Rockingham standout Alex Czerwinski, who had four birdies en route to an even par round of 72, which jumped him 23 spots into a tie for 18th.
Brendan Draughn came in with an 80, Seth Smallwood with an 82, Matthew Sengul posted 83, and Blake Sawyer shot 86 for the B Team.
The Eagles have now started the 2019-20 season with a win and a second-place showing, and they are back in action on October 7 at the Royal Lakes Invitational in Atlanta.