SAINT LEO – After starting the season with a tournament at Duke University with some of the top Division I teams in the country, Florida Southern was a lot closer to home for its second tournament and the Moccasins immediately re-asserted themselves. Shooting a nine-under par 279 in the first round and adding another 279 in the second round, 2nd-ranked Florida Southern ended day one of the Saint Leo Invitational hosted by the top-ranked Lions with a 17-stroke lead over Limestone (SC).
The Moccasins were strong from start to finish Monday with sophomore Christian Anderson their leader in round one with a five-under par 67, and junior John Coultas their leader in round two with a seven-under par 65. Yet their best golfer overall was junior John VanDerLaan, who had a 69 in the first round followed by a 67 in the second, which gave him a share of the tournament's individual lead with Coultas. With each of them shooting a 136 overall, it gave the two Moccasin teammates a one-stroke lead over Florida Tech's Ali Thurlow, and a 3-stroke lead over fourth-place Tom Forster of Carson-Newman (TN).
Though VanDerLaan and Coultas were tied for first after round two, Anderson had the lead after round one with his 67, which equaled the best round of his college career. After shooting a 75 in the afternoon he was tied for ninth place overall at two-under par 142. Freshman Chase Ibbotson had a 72 in each round and was tied for 17th with a 144, and senior Levin Hoffman had scores of 77 and 75 to close out the day tied for 47th with a total score of 152.
All four counters in round one were at 72 or better, led by Anderson's 67, a score he had previously achieved in the opening round of last fall's McDonough Cup at Rio Pinar Golf Club in Orlando. Monday morning at Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club, he began his day with back-to-back birdies and ended up with six of them in the first round.
VanDerLaan matched that total with six birdies of his own in round one, with four of them coming on the back nine. After making the turn even, VanDerLaan birdied four of the next eight holes to finish the round with a three-under par 69 that had him tied for fifth place at that point and two strokes off the pace. He added six more birdies in the second round, moving him into a tie for first.
Coultas had the Mocs' most impressive run of the day though. Following his 71 in the morning, and seven straight pars to start round two, Coultas reeled off six birdies in a row before adding another one three holes later to drop down to seven-under par for the round. He closed out the day with two more pars to hold on to that score, which matched his own career-low he established at last year's Saint Leo Invitational.
Ibbotson had the best finish to round one with birdies on his final two holes and four of the last eight to finish with a 72. He then played steadily throughout round two for another 72. Hoffman had a 77 to start his day, though he spent most of the first round at even-par or better. Only two other #5 golfers in the field had a better score in the first round, and each of them had a 76. Hoffman followed that with a 75 Monday afternoon that featured an eagle on the par-5 No. 2.
Florida Southern's first 279 of the day put the Moccasins two shots ahead of Limestone, but when the Saints turned in a 294 in round two, the lead blossomed to 17. Florida Tech (ranked #24 in Division II) and Carson-Newman (ranked #19) were tied for third, but were 19 shots behind the Moccasins, and fifth-place South Carolina-Aiken (ranked #8) was 21 shots behind. Saint Leo (ranked #1) and Palm Beach Atlantic were tied for sixth, trailing by 28.
The Moccasins also had two players competing as individuals, with sophomore Palmer Lovell shooting a 75 and a 77 that tied him for 47th place in a field of 78 golfers, and sophomore Michael VanDerLaan carded a 76 and 78, leaving him tied for 55th.
The Saint Leo Invitational concludes with one round on Tuesday at Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club.