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Spaar Leads Eagles Into National-Level Tournament

jason spaar watches his drive

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - As tends to be the annual pattern, the Bridgewater College men's golf team opened its season with a couple regional events before diving into a tournament that includes several of the top teams in the nation- in this case the Oglethorpe / Royal Lakes Fall Invitational in Flowery Branch, Georgia.

On Monday the Eagles joined a field of 18 teams that includes 10 teams who received votes for the top-25 in the Coach's Poll, and junior Jason Spaar led the way with a collegiate-best score of 69 (-3).

When the Eagles arrived at Royal Lakes Golf Club a year ago, they opened with a team score of 316 and were already eleven strokes behind the 10th-place team. Showing progress this year, Bridgewater shot 299 in the first round and sits in 14th, just five strokes from the 10th spot.

Spaar helped the team create some early momentum when he had a tap-in for birdie on his second-hole (par-5, #11), and the Eagles held the early lead at -3 through three holes. Despite starting on the more challenging back-nine Spaar and the Eagles played steadily, with the junior adding a second birdie on #16. He then reached the par-5 18th hole in two shots and two-putted to make the turn in 33 strokes (-3). Spaar was still -3 when he arrived at the 6th hole, a 292-yard par-4, which he drove en route to another birdie. On his finishing hole, Spaar flushed a 5-iron over the green and was short-sided, leading to just his second bogey of the day. Nonetheless he walked off the course with his new personal-best, and plenty of evidence that he is able to compete among many of the top players in the country.

Following Spaar was junior Jacob Laughlin, who played steadily all day and came to his 15th hole just three-over par; like Spaar he drove the reachable par-4 6th hole, but Laughlin was able to drop the downhill 17-footer for eagle, and then drop a birdie putt on #7. Suddenly he was back to even par and he added pars on the final two holes to post 72. Showing his development in the game, Laughlin last played this event as a freshman at Virginia Wesleyan and he improved by 16 strokes over that appearance. He's in a tie for 22nd.

Providing the third and fourth scores for the Eagles were a pair of freshmen who were making their first and second collegiate starts, both of whom posted 79 on Monday. Jacob Sears has opened his career with a pair of top-20 finishes, and he continued to play a key role for Bridgewater at Royal Lakes as he played the first nine at +2. A couple of hooks on his approaches into #8 and #9 (his finishing holes) led to a pair of bogeys, but it was another sub-80 round for the rookie who is top-20 in scoring in the ODAC early in his career.

Alex Czerwinski earned his way into the starting lineup this week, and he played well Monday despite a handful of three-putts. Czerwinski had two birdies early in the round, and he played an eight-hole stretch in the middle of the round at +1 on his way to a total of 79.

Senior Ronald Uszenski was +6 through six holes, but ground out a +8 total of 80. "On paper this does not look like a great result for Ronnie," said head coach John Rogers. "But I can tell you this was an outstanding effort. He just cannot make his normal swing at this time and it's tough for him to control the ball, yet he played the final seven holes even par. It took a lot of talent and perseverance to get through the round the way he did."

Spaar's 69 has him in a tie for seventh among 102 of the top D-III players in the nation, and he played relaxed on Monday, benefiting from the experience of having played at Royal Lakes last year. "I'm pretty comfortable with my game," noted Spaar, "and I'm managing courses well, so I feel like it's getting easier to shoot lower scores." The individual leader with one round to play is Addison Manring of Guilford, who shot 66.

Two ODAC teams are leading the way after Hampden-Sydney and Guilford shot impressive scores of 278 (-10) and 280 (-8) respectively.

While official national rankings come out later this week, the Eagles came to the Atlanta-area with the 34th-best scoring average in the nation, and they are within a few shots of Greensboro and Transylvania, two teams that were in the top-33 nationally a year ago.

The Eagles return to the 10th tee at 8:46 Tuesday morning, and live scoring is available at: