LAKELAND – What a day it was for the Florida Southern Moccasins and West Florida Argonauts in the final round of the 2017 Matlock Collegiate Classic. Florida Southern's John Coultas came from behind to win the individual title with a near-record score of 14-under par 202, teammate John VanDerLaan tied a tournament record with a 64 on Tuesday, and top-ranked West Florida blew past the previous team scoring record to finish the Matlock at 34-under par with a winning margin of 18 shots over No. 5 Nova Southeastern.
Florida Southern head coach Doug Gordin described the course conditions at Lone Palm Golf Club as the best he's seen in the 10 years the Matlock has been held there. With warm temperatures and little wind to speak of, the best teams in Division II showed exactly why they are the best. Not only did West Florida break the previous scoring record by eight shots, Nova's score of 16-under par would have won the tournament in 19 of the last 21 years prior to Tuesday, and third-place Lynn's -13 would have done so in 18 of them. It was the best third-place score for any Matlock champion since Ole Miss finished in a tie for second with Auburn at -20 in the 1985 edition.
West Florida's 18-shot victory was another Matlock record and the fifth time a team has won by double digits. The previous tournament record for margin of victory was 13 shots by Florida Southern over Alabama in 2001. The Argonauts built that margin in stunning fashion after leading Nova Southeastern by only one shot going into the final round. While the Argos counted four scores of 72 or better on Tuesday, the Sharks counted only one, a 70 by second-round leader Richard Mansell. Their other counters came in with scores of 73, 75, and 76.
With the second-ranked Knights placing third, No. 4 Barry finishing fourth at -12, and No. 5 Florida Southern fifth at -4, it meant the top five teams in the latest NCAA Division II coaches poll finished right about where they were voted at the end of the fall. The prestigious Matlock Classic featured seven of the top eight teams this year and 11 of the top 25.
Florida Tech and North Alabama were among those ranked teams too and were tied for sixth at -2, giving this year's Matlock Classic seven teams under par for the tournament, the most since it became strictly a Division II tournament in 2005, and the most overall in at least 20 years.
Coultas used eight birdies to shoot a final-round 66 and overcome a 2-stroke deficit going into Tuesday, and finished just ahead of two West Florida golfers. Coultas' total of 14-under par 202 was the second lowest in the 36 years of the Matlock Classic and was still just one stroke ahead of Jacob Huizinga. Chandler Blanchet and second-round leader Richard Mansell of Nova Southeastern finished tied for third with a 204, and VanDerLaan was alone in fifth with a 205 (-11). Coultas now has three wins in five tournaments this season.
VanDerLaan's score would have won the tournament or been tied for first in 32 of the previous 35 years it was played. Prior to Tuesday, only three golfers had ever had ever shot better than 11-under par in any Matlock Classic. Florida Southern's Tim Crouch set the record with a 16-under par 200 in 2013, and two golfers had put together scores of 12-under par 204. One of those was another Moccasin, Jeff Klauk in 2000, and the other was Barry's Adam Svenson in 2015. Though he may not have earned the win his score would have normally afforded him, VanDerLaan still went into the record book by tying the Matlock's single round score of 64, a mark he now shares with Crouch and Svensson. It also gave him his third top-five finish of the season.
After a rocky start to the tournament when they had a team score of 293 in the first round, the Moccasins had a 281 in the final round with only West Florida (277) and Barry (280) posting a better score. One reason was the play of the Mocs' fifth golfer, junior Grant Lovell. Unable to play in the first two rounds that were played on Monday, Lovell was their third counter on Tuesday with a 75.
Sophomore Michael VanDerLaan, who had a pair of 75s on Monday had a 76 on Tuesday as the Mocs' fourth counter, another key number in their move past No. 8 North Alabama and No. 14 Florida Tech in the team standings. His total score of 226 put him in a tie for 51st.
Freshman Chase Ibbotson, who had an 80 on Tuesday, tied for 67th with a total score of 232.
Florida Southern's next tournament will be March 6-7 in the Panther Invitational hosted by Florida Tech.