MUSCLE SHOALS, AL – Patience is a word Doug Gordin has used a lot this week, and Thursday's national quarterfinal match against Lincoln Memorial was the perfect example of what he has been talking about. After some early stumbles, the top-seeded Moccasins took back, piece by piece, almost everything the eighth-seeded Railsplitters had earned. The final result was a 4-0-1 victory that sends Florida Southern into the semifinals Thursday afternoon against No. 4 seed West Florida.
When re-setting his lineup following stroke play, Gordin put senior John Coultas into the leadoff spot for Thursday morning's match against Lincoln Memorial, and it was devastating for the Railsplitters. Coultas won his match over Harry Boyle by 15 shots, the largest for any winner in the Thursday morning's four quarterfinal matches. It was also the largest margin for any Moccasin in medal play since the NCAA adopted that format in 2011, two shots more than John VanDerLaan won his match by in last year's semifinals against West Florida. Coultas won the first four holes outright when he jumped out to an eight-shot lead, was up nine at the turn, and by 14 through 12. He lost just two holes and finished with a three-under-par 69 that included four birdies, the last of which ended the round.
While Coultas was firmly in control from start to finish, the other four matches took a bit longer to decide. Playing in the group behind Coultas, Christian Anderson won his by one shot, and Jacob Penny won the third position by nine. That gave Florida Southern the necessary three points to reach the semifinals before the remaining two matches were finished, one of which ended in a tie between Michael VanDerLaan and Sam Broadhurst, and John VanDerLaan won the other.
Anderson and Penny each fell behind in their matches on one of the first two holes. For Anderson, it came with a bogey on No. 1, and for Penny, it was a triple-bogey on No. 2 when he landed in the water twice. That's where the patience Gordin has been preaching came into play.
After the bogey on No. 1, Anderson parred or birdied every hole over the remainder of the front nine and squared his match on the par-3 No. 5. Both he and Garrett Tucker hit their tee shots to the left side of the green, with the pin on the right closest to the water. But while Anderson parred the hole, Tucker bogeyed it and it left them tied for the next three holes. Anderson then took the lead when he parred another par-3 on No. 9, and he held it the rest of the way, eventually winning by one stroke with a two-over-par 74.
Penny was down by three shots after his triple-bogey on No. 2, but it took him just five holes to erase that deficit and take a one-shot lead of his own against Brady Davis. That lead expanded to five shots after No. 11, seven after 13, and his birdie on 18 made the final margin nine. That was a 12-shot swing over the final 16 holes, 10 of which Penny won outright, including three by two shots. The most critical point came on the par-4 No. 11, which he birdied while Davis had trouble coming up the slope from the water next to the green and took a double-bogey. Birdies on 13, 15, and 18 only solidified Penny's lead for the decisive point and gave him an even-par 72.
Michael VanDerLaan also shot a 72 in his match with Broadhurst that ended in a deadlock. Broadhurst, who finished fourth in stroke play, gradually worked his way back from a three-shot deficit when he double-bogeyed No. 1 and VanDerLaan birdied it. Another birdie on No. 3 created a four-shot gap, but Broadhurst cut it to two when he birdied nine. Two holes after that, it was all square before VanDerLaan regained the lead with a birdie on 14. He held that one-shot lead all the way to 18 when it was Broadhurst's turn to birdie, leaving both golfers at 72 for the round.
Playing in the final position, John VanDerLaan fell behind in his match with Dan Bradbury with a double-bogey on No. 1, a hole that produced two bogeys and two doubles between the two teams. VanDerLaan re-grouped, however, and birdied his second hole to cut the gap to one. He took the lead on No. 6, but Bradbury tied it again on eight and it remained that way for four holes. VanDerLaan continued to play as he has throughout the season though and was three-under on the back nine, which gave him a three-shot win and a one-under-par 71. That also gave the Moccasins a 28-stroke total margin in the five individual matches, the largest of the four quarterfinal matches.
In addition to West Florida, which defeated No. 5 seed Indianapolis 3½-1½, second-seeded Barry and third-seeded Lynn advanced to the semifinals as well. Barry defeated Saint Leo 3-2, and Lynn slipped past Arkansas Tech by virtue of a tie-breaker when they were knotted with two wins apiece. Arkansas Tech had a player withdraw, leaving the Knights to play one of their five matches simply to provide a score in case a tie-breaker was needed.