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Standout Jorgensen looks to pace 'U' at invitational

April 25, 2003

As his eagle putt from the back fringe rolls downhill 25 feet to the hole and then three feet past it, Eric Jorgensen wears a look of both surprise and knowing on his face.

"Man, that's fast," he says.

He was standing on the green of the par-5 13th hole at Forest Akers West Golf Course. Jorgensen has played it and the course's other 17 holes countless times during his four years on the MSU men's golf team, but to him it's always different, always unique.

He walks around the hole to his ball, measures his uphill putt for a second and then taps in for a ho-hum birdie. He says he usually birdies the 13th.

Jorgensen might know Forest Akers as well as most people know their houses. He could probably navigate it in the dark.

That is why this weekend will be bittersweet. Jorgensen will say goodbye to his home of the last four years - at least from a competitive standpoint - as MSU hosts the Bruce Fossum/TaylorMade Invitational on Saturday and Sunday.

The tournament is the Spartans' only home event of the year and it's their last test before the Big Ten Championship next weekend.

With an air of finality in his voice, Jorgensen says he's ready to defend his home turf for the last time.

"I'm very confident in my game right now," said the 2002 third-team All-American, who boasts MSU's best stroke average - 73.27 - this season. "It'd be huge for me or the team to win this tournament this weekend."

It won't be easy, though. The Fossum brings together the best college teams in the Midwest, punctuated by defending national champion Minnesota and last year's tournament champion Toledo.

MSU has finished third the last three seasons, thanks largely to its home-course advantage. Spartan head coach Mark Hankins said another top-three finish would be fine with him this weekend.

"As a coach, I'm more concerned about who we beat," Hankins said, referring to positioning for NCAA regional slots. "But as a team, if we finish top three, we would be doing pretty well. If we win, that's just an added bonus. I tell these guys week after week that if they take care of their own scores, the team will come right along with them."

A strong finish at their home tournament would go a long way toward getting the Spartans into the NCAA regionals for the second straight year.

Looking at his roster, Hankins believes the NCAAs are within reach. Jorgensen leads the way for MSU, with junior Casey Lubahn (73.92) right behind him. Senior John Koskinen and sophomore Andrew Ruthkoski have also played brilliantly at times, giving MSU four duffers capable of shooting low rounds.

Consistency has been the team's biggest problem, but Lubahn expects MSU to put it together at home this weekend.

"This tournament has been a focal point," Lubahn said. "Our seniors have never won it, even though we've had some pretty good teams. So it's time we come out and be ready to play. For them and for the future of this program, we need this big time."

If the Spartans don't shoot low enough this weekend, they would probably have to dominate the Big Ten tournament to get into the postseason. It's a scenario Jorgensen doesn't even want to consider.

"All year, my goal has been to lead this team into Big Tens and the NCAA tournament," Jorgensen said. "My game's finally starting to come around, so hopefully, I'll be able to do that now."

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