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Eagles Have Successful Up & Down Round at Guilford

jacob laughlin admires a shot

GREENSBORO, N.C. - At 10 a.m., an hour after the O'Brient-Jensen Memorial Tournament started, the Bridgewater men's golf team was four under par and had the early lead. By noon the Eagles were sixteen over par and in last place out of twenty two teams. But the squad rallied late in the day and crept slowly up the leaderboard, finishing the first round of Guilford's home event among some of the country's elite golf programs.

Ranked #68 nationally (despite having the 46th best scoring average), the Eagles find themselves facing thirteen of the top-30 teams this week, and the O'Brient-Jensen features nineteen teams in the top-75. Led by junior Jacob Laughlin, Bridgewater's late charge has them eleven shots ahead of the #11 team in the nation, and within four strokes of two top-10 teams.

Laughlin had a three-putt double bogey on the par-3 12th hole, the toughest hole on the course, but struck the ball very well on Monday en route to a score of 74 (+3). Starting on the back nine, Laughlin struggled to get his putts on line early in the day, but found his stroke and played the final ten holes at even par. He finished with three birdies on the round and sits in a tie for 21st among 120 players.

Following the team trend of some outward-nine troubles, junior Jason Spaar had a stretch of five bogeys in six holes, during which he struck the ball well but missed on the short-side of several of the tough Pete Dye greens at The Cardinal Golf Club (Greensboro, N.C.). Spaar stayed patient though, and played the second nine in 34 strokes- a stretch that featured birdies on the 6th and 9th holes, two of the harder holes. Spaar finished with a score of 75.

Freshman Jackson Soska, making just the second start of his collegiate career, helped the Eagles start hot when he birdied his first two holes and was -2 through four. After the early team fireworks that included five birdies in the first three holes, the Eagles dropped fifteen shots on their fifth through eighth holes, and Soska dropped three of them. A birdie on the 198-yard, par-3 8th hole (his 17th hole) helped Soska finish strong though, and he posted a 77.

Senior Ronald Uszenski hit a lot of solid shots on Monday, but struggled from some of the tight bermuda-grass lies around the greens. He had a triple-bogey and two double-bogeys in the first ten holes when the short-game floundered, and then responded by playing holes #5 through #9, the toughest stretch on the course, at -1 to complete his round of 78.

"Ronnie has been having a strange season so far," said head coach John Rogers. "In most of the tournaments he has struggled with his full swing, but has scrambled well. Today was just the opposite. But he has been a good leader for us- he has found a way to finish strong no matter what."

Freshman Jacob Sears joined in the early excitement when he birdied his second and third holes, and he shot a 39 on the back nine, leading to a total of 81.

Late in the round, Bridgewater was still sitting in 21st place, but they dropped six birdie putts on some of the more challenging holes, and jumped all the way to 14th. The team score of 304 on Monday was six strokes higher than the Eagles' average in the fall season, but good enough to put them eleven strokes ahead of ODAC rival Washington & Lee, who is ranked #11 in the nation. Bridgewater is also just three strokes behind #2 Huntingdon, and four shots shy of #7 Methodist.

"It was kind of a bizarre day on the course," noted Rogers. "We came out hot, then plummeted down the leaderboard, and then played very well in the toughest part of the course. It was not one of our better rounds of golf, and yet it put us in a position to pull off some of the biggest upsets in program history. So there were a lot of mixed signals today, but one thing was for sure- the guys did a great job of grinding it out until the last putt dropped."

Sixth-ranked Hampden Sydney joins #16 Guilford and #23 RPI in the lead after a score of 290 (+6). James Mishoe of Guilford shot 68 to lead the field individually.

The Eagles hit the course at 10:40 a.m. on Tuesday and live scoring is available at: http://results.golfstat.com/public/leaderboards/gsnav.cfm?pg=team&tid=18402.