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Eagles Continue Roller Coaster Ride at Guilford

ronald uszenski chips out of the rough

GREENSBORO, N.C. - On Monday at the O'Briant-Jensen Tournament, the Bridgewater College men's golf team started hot, stumbled in the middle of the round and finished strong. On Tuesday the roller coaster ride continued as the Eagles made a strong move during their front nine before falling back to a 15th place finish in an elite field of 22 teams.

Starting on the back nine of the Cardinal Golf Club, the Eagles made four birdies and two eagles in the first six holes. Having started the second round in 14th place, ahead of one nationally ranked team and within reach of two others, Bridgewater made an impressive jump into a tie for sixth. At that point, almost three quarters of the way through the tournament, the team was in front of six of the top 32 squads in the nation.

"Yesterday our hot start only lasted about three holes, but today the guys kept it going for most of the front nine," said head coach John Rogers. "It's very difficult to make a big jump on collegiate leaderboard, especially in a high level tournament like this, so it was a blast to watch the guys jump eight spots early in the round." Through seven holes the Eagles had the lowest score in the field, which included 13 of the top 30 teams in D-III golf.

A lot of the early fireworks were provided by junior Jason Spaar, who birdied the opening hole, a reachable par-5. Then on his fourth hole (#13, a short par-4), Spaar drove the ball green-side and hit a low running chip that found the hole for an eagle. Two holes later he faced the par-5 15th, which played 550 yards into the wind with a creek on one side and out of bounds down the other. Undaunted, Spaar hit driver, then 3 wood 20 feet from the hole, and he ran in the putt for another eagle. At that point he was -5 through six holes and had jumped all the way to third place in a field of 120 players.

Even with a double bogey on 17, Spaar made the turn at 33 (-3). As did most of the team, he had a harder time on the second nine and finished the round with a 78.

Only senior Ronald Uszenski improved his round on the back nine today. Having made the turn at 3-over par, he played steadily on the tougher nine, only bogeying the final hole to shoot 34 (-1) coming in. His total of 73 led the Eagles in the final round.

Junior Jacob Laughlin contributed to the team momentum early in the round when he birdied two of his first four holes. Laughlin was even through seven holes and hung on to shoot 75. His two-day total of 150 led Bridgewater at the O'Briant-Jensen.

While his teammates were making birdies and eagles on the front nine, freshman Jackson Soska helped the team shoot up the leaderboard in a different way- he opened with six straight pars on a stretch that included a couple lip out birdie attempts. Soska dropped five strokes in the final six holes, but his 79 still counted for the team.

Freshman Jacob Sears shot 83 on Tuesday to conclude a first semester that saw him earn a lot of playing time.

Coach Rogers noted that the team has played some great stretches of golf in national level tournaments, but have not yet quite figured out how to finish near the top of the leaderboard. "Two years ago at Jekyll Island we were 5-under during a round, which was by far the best round in the tournament at that point," he said. "Then last month at Royal Lakes we had a nice stretch of holes where we played as well as all the top teams in the country and today we were in the last wave on the golf course, so when we had the lowest score through seven holes we were legitimately outplaying a bunch of great teams. I'm very pleased that the guys have shown what we are capable of doing, and the trick for the spring season and the future is to figure out how to finish these rounds and earn a spot high on the leaderboard."

The team score of 305 on Tuesday allowed the Eagles to finish 15th, exactly where they were ranked in the field. It also wrapped a fall season that included the first team victory in seven years and a team scoring average under 300, which would be a school record by several shots if maintained through the spring season.

Carnegie Mellon won the O'Briant-Jensen by shooting -3 today.

The Eagles will be back in action during their spring break trip in March.