REUNION, Fla. – The appropriately named Division II National Preview began at Reunion's Watson Course Monday morning and the Florida Southern Moccasins again looked right at home while playing with the best teams in the country. Finishing day one and round two of the tournament at 15-under par, the Moccasins trail only Lynn University by a single shot going into Tuesday's final round as they seek back-to-back wins for the first time in 16 years.
Playing at the same location that will serve as the site of this year's NCAA Division II National Finals, the National Preview tournament features nine of the top 11 ranked teams in the country and 12 top-25 teams overall. Florida Southern came into the tournament ranked #2 just behind West Florida, with Barry #3, Lynn #4 and Nova Southeastern #5. Monday's top-five had a similar look to the rankings too, but it was Lynn on top, followed by Florida Southern, West Florida, Nova Southeastern and #16 Florida Tech in fifth place.
#10 Missouri-St.-Louis was sixth, Barry was seventh, and #7 Saint Leo was in eighth place, with all of those schools at +2 or better. In fact, all nine of the teams that were ranked #11 or higher entering the tournament were in at least 11th place in the 18-team field, though 11th-ranked and 11th-place North Alabama was 31 shots off the pace set by Lynn.
Not only was Florida Southern running second as a team, the Moccasins also had the top two golfers with junior John Coultas alone at the top, and junior John VanDerLaan tied for second and trailing his teammate by two shots. Coultas was 10-under for the day with rounds of 65 and 69 (134), and VanDerLaan was 8-under with scores of 67 and 69 (136). VanDerLaan was tied with Henry Westmoreland of West Florida for second place, with Lee's Shea Sylvester fourth at 6-under, and four other golfers tied for fifth at 5-under.
The Moccasins raced out of the gates in the shotgun start, with Coultas setting the pace in Monday's first round with a seven-under par 65, already his second 65 of the season. He had seven birdies and no bogeys in the round to take the individual lead halfway through the day and he never relinquished it. VanDerLaan wasn't far behind him either, and was tied for second at the end of round one with a five-under par 67 with only one bogey and six birdies. It was also the second 67 of the young season for VanDerLaan.
Sophomore Christian Anderson added a 72, and freshman Chase Ibbotson a 74 to Florida Southern's counting scores, while junior Grant Lovell turned in a 76. Collectively, the five Moccasin golfers had only one hole among them with anything worse than a bogey, a critical factor in their 2-shot lead at the time over Lynn and West Florida.
In Monday's second round, the Moccasins maintained their lead going into the clubhouse and still had a 2-shot lead over Lynn when their five golfers finished play for the afternoon. The Knights, however, were able to overtake them at the very end of round two when Mateo Gomez and Martin Cancino each birdied their final two holes.
That gave Lynn a 280 team score in each round, while Florida Southern had a 278 and 283, still good enough for a total score of 15-under par. That also put Florida Southern seven shots ahead of top-ranked West Florida, which finished day one in third place. Nova Southeastern was in fourth place, nine shots behind front-running Lynn and eight behind Florida Southern, while Florida Tech trailed the Knights by 12 shots and the Moccasins by 11.
Coultas and VanDerLaan tied for the team lead in round two with scores of 69, and Anderson and Ibbotson were again among the counters for the Moccasins with a 73 and 72 respectively. Lovell had a 79 in the second round, though he was even through his first 13 holes.
Anderson got off to a difficult start in round two when he was +5 after three holes, but was 4-under the rest of the way to finish one-over for the round. He closed with three straight birdies to match what Coultas accomplished in the middle of his first round Monday morning.
That strong finish moved Anderson in a tie for 27th place with a 1-over par 145 for the day, while Ibbotson was tied for 32nd with a 146. Lovell was tied for 78th at 155.
The final round begins Tuesday morning with a shotgun start at 8:30.