LAKELAND – The day did not start well for Florida Southern head men's golf coach Doug Gordin, but it got a little bit better by the end of play Monday at the 36th annual Matlock Collegiate Classic. Down one golfer before they could even get started, the Moccasins fought back in the afternoon's second round with a two-under par 286 that left them in seventh place, while top-ranked West Florida and No. 5 Nova Southeastern pulled ahead with record-breaking scores that had them in the top two positions in the 15-team field.
Early Monday morning, Gordin found out he would have to replace sophomore Christian Anderson due to illness and with the Mocs unable to get a fifth golfer into their lineup before tee time, they were forced to go with four instead. With the top four scores counting for the team score, it meant there was no margin for error in order for the Mocs to contend for the title in a tournament that featured seven of the top eight teams in the Division II coaches' poll, and 11 of the top 25. Monday's scores showed just how difficult a task that was, but the Mocs will likely have a fifth golfer on Tuesday as they attempt to continue their climb.
After finishing round one in a tie for 10th place with an uncharacteristic 293, the Moccasins came back in the afternoon with a 286, which was the fifth best score of round two. They were buoyed by the play of juniors John Coultas and John VanDerLaan, who each shot a four-under par 68. It was Coultas' second 68 of the day and it left him in a tie for second place in the individual standings with an eight-under par 136 overall, just two strokes off the pace. VanDerLaan had an opening round 73 and was tied for 10th at the end of the day with a three-under par 141.
Florida Southern's third golfer was sophomore Michael VanDerLaan, who had twin scores of 75, putting him in a tie for 46th with a 150, and freshman Chase Ibbotson had rounds of 77 and 75 to tie for 58th with a total of 152.
Meanwhile, West Florida and Nova Southeastern were separated by just one shot at the top of the standings and both schools set new 2-round Matlock scoring records. The Argonauts were at -23 (553) and the Sharks were at -22 (554), with second-ranked Lynn in third place at -10 (566). Barry, which is ranked number four in the country, was fourth in the tournament at -4 (572) and No. 8 North Alabama was fifth at even-par 576. With Florida Tech at 577 and Florida Southern at 579, it left several teams in a very tight race in the middle. Altogether, the fourth through ninth spots were separated by a total of nine shots.
Prior to Monday the last team to finish the second round at -20 or better was Virginia in 1995. The Cavaliers made it through two rounds with a -21, which had been the previous 2-round scoring record. The Cavaliers also ended up finishing second that year to Florida Southern. Only two other teams in the last 35 years were at -20: LSU in 1989, and North Carolina in 1985. That means the overall Matlock scoring record of -26 is well within reach for West Florida and Nova Southeastern, and both teams may end up breaking it.
Both of those teams also missed the single round scoring record by just one shot, Nova Southeastern in the morning and West Florida in the afternoon. All eight counting scores for the Argonauts were under par Monday, and seven of the eight were under par for the Sharks. The only one that wasn't was a 72. The Argos were able to grab the lead though by having Jacob Huizinga. Chandler Blanchet and Bryce Geraghty all shoot in the 60's in the second round, after Huizinga and Blanchet also did that in the first round.
The best individual score of the day still belonged to Nova Southeastern's Richard Mansell, however. His 65 in round one was one shot off the individual scoring record set by Florida Southern's Tim Crouch in 2013 and matched one year later by Adam Svensson of Barry. Mansell was not only close to tying that record, he was very close to breaking it. The 2015 Matlock runner-up was six-under before a double-bogey on the par-four No. 9 sent him through the turn at four-under. It was his only bad hole of the day as he finished the first round with a tournament-high seven birdies and had an eagle on the par-five No. 5. With a 69 in the second round, Mansell was at -10 for the day, putting him two strokes ahead of Coultas and Huizinga, with Blanchet three strokes back and Nova teammate Finlay Mason in fifth place facing a four-stroke deficit.
Though North Alabama was in fifth place, two of its golfers had noteworthy accomplishments of their own. Forrest Knight managed to one-up Mansell on the front nine in round one with a 31 that was one stroke away from tying the best 9-hole score in the tournament's history. (Coultas did the same in round two for Florida Southern.) Then in the second round, Patrick Twesme became only the eighth player in the history of the Matlock to have two eagles in one round. He earned those on a pair of par-fives. With an eagle already in hand from the first round, it gave Twesme a record-tying three eagles in the tournament so far, matching a record most recently accomplished by Colin Dolph of Rollins and Will Wilcox of Clayton State in 2009.
There were a total of 17 eagles in the tournament on Monday and 28 players will go into Tuesday's final round at even-par or better. Last year only four finished play with that score, and it's been 20 years since as many as 20 golfers accomplished that for the duration of the entire tournament.
The final round gets underway with a shotgun start at Lone Palm Golf Club beginning at 8:30 a.m.