DURHAM, N.C. – Florida Southern began the 2016-17 season Saturday at the Rod Myers Invitational hosted by Duke University and was led by its two returning All-Americans, juniors John VanDerLaan and John Coultas. VanDerLaan turned in scores of 74 and 73, while Coultas has a 76 and 72 to wrap up day one of the tournament separated by one stroke in the individual standings.
Even though Florida Southern was able to finish its two rounds, Wake Forest and North Carolina were still on the course when darkness forced officials to suspend play. Only two players were unable to complete the round when they were stopped on the 18th green.
Florida Southern is the only Division II program among the 14 teams competing, which includes four teams ranked in the GCAA Division I Top-25 and another that fell one spot outside those rankings. It's the first time the Moccasins have been to Duke in 10 years, a site that was once an annual fall tournament for the Mocs after current head coach Doug Gordin began his tenure in 1995.
Duke has hosted an intercollegiate men's golf tournament for the past 43 years, and the event was rebranded in 2010 as a tribute to longtime head coach Rod Myers. Myers, who passed away in 2007 after a battle with an acute form of leukemia, guided the Blue Devils to 30 tournament wins, the 2005 ACC championship and seven NCAA Championships appearances during his 34-year tenure at the helm of the program.
In the first of two rounds Saturday, the Moccasins turned in a team score of 307 while having to count a 78 and 79. Even then, the Moccasins closed out the round by getting birdies from four of their five golfers on the final hole, the par-5 No. 9 covering 493 yards. That got them within five shots of South Florida and six of Cal-Davis, the two schools immediately in front of them.
Junior John VanDerLaan was the first-round leader for the Mocs with a two-over par 74 that included four birdies, with two of those coming on the Duke University Golf Club's par fives. He played those four holes at two-under in the round, but junior John Coultas did him one better. Coultas was three-under on the par fives, which tied him for the best such score in the opening round, and gave him a 76 through Saturday's first 18 holes.
Florida Southern's other two first-round counters were sophomore Christian Anderson with a 78, and freshman Chase Ibbotson with a 79. Sophomore Michael VanDerLaan had an 80, but his 36 in the second half of round one was the Mocs' best score during that stretch.
Wake Forest, which is ranked #14 in the country, had the tournament's top two golfers in the first round with Will Zalatoris shooting a seven-under par 65, and Paul McBride turning in a 67. Each player birdied seven holes and helped the Demon Deacons open up an 8-shot lead over Liberty, which was led by Kieran Vincent seven birdies and 67 in the round. Vincent finished with five straight birdies and six on his final eight holes to tie McBride for second place halfway through the day.
In the second round, Coultas was the Moccasins' top golfer with his even-par 72. He ended the day with four birdies on his final eight holes, going three-under for the second half of the round. His 72 was one shot better than VanDerLaan, who had a 73 and was two-under over the second half of his round. VanDerLaan's total score of 147 put him in a tie for 29th place, while Coultas was tied for 33rd with a 148. Second-round scores are still unofficial pending the completion Sunday morning.
Another Moccasin to improve his score from round one to two was Ibbotson, the only newcomer to this year's roster. Ibbotson shot a 77 in the afternoon that gave him a total of 156 for the day. He was the Mocs' third counter in round two and followed by Michael VanDerLaan, who had an 80. Anderson's second round score was an 82, and it left both he and Michael VanDerLaan tied overall at 160.
As a team, Florida Southern sits in 13th place at 609 (307-302), six shots behind East Carolina and Cal-Davis who are tied for 11th. The Moccasins are also five shots ahead of Loyola-Maryland.
With four of its golfers among the top-10 in the playing field, Wake Forrest expanded its lead from earlier in the afternoon with an unofficial second-round score of -8 with one golfer still on the course. That put the Demon Deacons at -18 for the day. Liberty was still in second place at -6 overall, but Florida State jumped from seventh to third at -4.
Vincent grabbed the individual lead for Liberty though with his second 67 of the day, and at 10-under holds a 3-stroke lead over Zalatoris and a 4-stroke margin over McBride. Zalatoris, however, was one of the two golfers who had yet to complete the second round. Vincent had a total of 13 birdies on the day, while the two Wake Forest teammates had nine each. Coultas was among the tournament leaders too with eight.
The final round of the Rod Myers Invitational gets underway Sunday morning at 7:35.