Strong Start to Tuesday Keeps Florida Southern Third on Day Two of South/Southeast Regional Tournament

Mike VanDerLaan
Mike VanDerLaan

MUSCLE SHOALS, AL – Top-ranked West Florida grabbed the lead from 2nd-ranked Lynn, 4th-ranked Florida Southern held off a charge from 6th-ranked Florida Tech to remain third, and the Moccasins were able to add a little more cushion to the score they would need to move on to the National Finals with one round remaining in the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Regional.

Lynn held a two shot lead over West Florida at the start of play Tuesday at The Fighting Joe, and Florida Southern was sitting five shots off the pace in third. The Knights and Argonauts were two of the first teams to tee off, and playing together they were also among the first to finish. When they did so, roughly an hour ahead of Florida Southern, the Argonauts had long since overtaken the Knights for first and went to the clubhouse at 11-under, holding an eight-shot lead. Florida Southern was nine shots behind the Argos at that point with a total of 18 holes remaining from its five golfers, though the Moccasins were dealing with a strong push by Florida Tech coming up behind them in fourth place.

West Florida did little wrong the entire day and had a team score of 279. The first two golfers to finish for the Argos each shot a 73, and one of those got thrown out as the team's fifth score. They got a 68 from Chandler Blanchet and 69s from Henry Westmoreland and Jacob Huizinga. Blanchet and Westmoreland played a bogey-free round, and while Huizinga had three, he also had a team-high six birdies. Their four counters combined for only four bogeys on the day and one double, and Blanchet, Westmoreland and Huizinga were all in the individual top-10.

Mateo Gomez had seven birdies for Lynn, but four bogeys and a nine on the par-5 No. 12 put a serious dent in his score. His 73 wasn't a bad mark by any means, and it turned out to be the worst score the Knights kept after they got 72s from their other three counters; but, with no one in the 60s to match West Florida, their first-round lead had disappeared.

Florida Southern applied pressure on Lynn all day and at times caught, or even moved ahead of the Knights. When all the cards were in for all of the top teams, the Moccasins were still third after a second-round 287, and though 11 shots behind West Florida, they were still in a strong position relative to where they needed to be for advancement to the National Finals. Florida Tech and 14th-ranked South Carolina-Aiken moved up to fourth and fifth respectively, while Barry and 12th-ranked Newberry (SC) dropped into the more tenuous sixth and seventh positions. Newberry's score of +10 is now the cutoff for teams looking to move on to Nationals, putting the Wolves three shots ahead in that race.

First on the course for Florida Southern was Michael VanDerLaan, who after a bogey on his first hole, reeled off 15 consecutive holes with either a birdie or par. A double-bogey on 17 gave him a 74, which was still only one stroke off the fourth counters from West Florida and Lynn, equal to the those from Florida Tech and Limestone (SC), and better than every other fourth counter in the field. He's tied for 36th with a 148 (+4).

Chase Ibbotson, who carried the Mocs through the first nine holes on Monday, got off to a slower start Tuesday but turned it up again later in the morning. Sitting at three-over after the first five holes, Ibbotson went three-under for the next 10 with three birdies in a row on 11, 12, and 13. He finished with a 73, just one stroke off his score from round one. He's currently tied for 20th overall with a 145 (+1).

No Moccasin had a more consistent round than John Coultas. The junior All-American shot a 71 Tuesday which included 17 pars and one birdie, with that coming on the par-4 No. 11. It also gave Coultas a total of 32 holes in the first two rounds with either a par or birdie, which tied for the fifth best percentage in the field of 108 golfers. Ahead of him were Saint Leo's Ryan Gendron with 33 such holes, Florida Southern teammate John VanDerLaan and Florida Tech's Gaelen Trew, who each did that on 34 holes, and Blanchet who did that on all 36 for West Florida at the top of the leaderboard. Coultas is tied for 34th overall with a 147 (+3).

Florida Southern's best score again came from John VanDerLaan, who carded a three-under par 69 that kept the junior All-American in second place individually. He started with three straight birdies to briefly tie Blanchet at the top before falling back again with a bogey on No. 4. He added two more birdies to his count over the remainder of the second round, which gave him 10 so far in the tournament. That was tied for second with Blanchet and Lynn's Manuel Torres, one behind Harry Boyle from Lincoln Memorial (TN). Boyle, however, also had seven bogeys and two doubles while VanDerLaan had two bogeys and nothing worse.

VanDerLaan (-8) now trails Blanchet (-10) by two strokes going into the final round, and Nova Southeastern's Richard Mansell is in third place, three strokes off the pace (-7). Those are the only three golfers who were in the 60s in each of the first two rounds. Carlos Leandro of Newberry is fourth at -5.

Christian Anderson had the Mocs' fifth and non-counting score Tuesday with a 75. It was the fifth time in 32 rounds this season the Moccasins had all five of their golfers shoot a 75 or better, and only West Florida got a better score on Monday or Tuesday from a fifth golfer. It also marked the second day in a row the Mocs had the best number five in the field. Anderson is tied for 60th with a 151 (+7).

The final round of the South/Southeast Regional gets underway Wednesday morning at 7:30 CST/8:30 EST. With the pairings now adjusted to reflect the team standings, Florida Southern will play with West Florida and Lynn, and tee off in the final time slots from 1:50 – 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.