DANIELS, WV – Florida Southern left little doubt Wednesday as to whether it would be moving on to medal play at the NCAA Division II National Championships, but that was only half the story for the Moccasins as Michael VanDerLaan won the stroke play portion of the tournament to claim the individual national title. The senior from Southbury, Connecticut became the 10th national medalist in program history by shooting a final-round 66, putting him at -9 for the tournament.
VanDerLaan was never far from the top throughout the championship tournament but still had to move up five spots on the final day to get the win. He also had to wait quite some time after finishing his round to officially pick up the trophy. With the Moccasins teeing off at noon, VanDerLaan was in the clubhouse long before some of the other contenders, which included national player-of-the-year candidate Jorge Garcia. A senior from Barry University, Garcia still had nine holes to play when VanDerLaan was signing off on his round, and still within striking distance. He narrowed the gap to two strokes with birdies on 11 and 12, but got no closer.
The 10 individual championships are the most for any Division II team, and the VanDerLaan family now has two of them. Mike VanDerLaan's older brother John won last year's national title, with Garcia also finishing second in that tournament. Only four Division II schools have won more individual men's golf championships than the VanDerLaan brothers, with Florida Southern among them.
Before VanDerLaan completed his round, he already had a target score ahead of him. Individual qualifier Chase Carlson of Colorado Christian had been among the early finishers and closed with a 210 (-6). VanDerLaan still had three holes to play and was at -8 with no other golfer still on the course better than -5. Even then, the lead was far from comfortable with Garcia one of them.
Starting the day tied for sixth at -3, VanDerLaan was three strokes off the pace being set by Lincoln Memorial's Sam Broadhurst. The Moccasins and Railsplitters were playing together in the final round, but Broadhurst was in the group behind VanDerLaan with Christian Anderson, who was tied with Garcia for fourth place. With the teams starting on the back nine, VanDerLaan started red hot with three straight birdies on 10, 11, and 12. Two more birdies on 15 and 18 allowed him to turn at -5 and catch Broadhurst for the top spot in the standings.
A little behind VanDerLaan on the course, Broadhurst was still holding his own and at -1 for the day through seven holes, but he ran into trouble after that. After a bogey on the par-3 No. 17, Broadhurst doubled the par-5 No. 18, and had another bogey on No. 1. Those three consecutive holes cost him five shots as VanDerLaan had two pars and a birdie on the same three.
VanDerLaan picked up another stroke when he birdied No. 2, putting him at -6 in the round and -9 in the tournament. Now two shots ahead of Carlson, who was already done for the day, VanDerLaan maintained that score over the final six holes. He did bogey 4 and 6, but each time followed it with a birdie, keeping him exactly where he needed to be. He finished with eight birdies in the round, and his 66 puts him on a very short list of Moccasin golfers to shoot six-under or better in any round at the national finals. Only Jude Eustaquio (-7 in the opening round in 2008), John Coultas (-6 in the final round last year), and John VanDerLaan (a -6 in round one, and a -7 in round three last year) have equaled or bettered VanDerLaan's score from Wednesday.
Florida Southern's list of individual national champions in men's golf now includes Tom Gleeton (1979), Tom Patri (1981), Lee Janzen (1985), Matt Saglio (1999), Jeff Klauk (2000), Steve Sokol (2001), Tim Crouch (2013 and '14), John VanDerLaan (2018), and Michael VanDerLaan (2019). The VanDerLaans are believed to be the first set of brothers to ever win individual national men's golf championships in NCAA history. It was also the first career college win for Mike VanDerLaan.
The team championship, of course, is still up for grabs and the Moccasins have their sights set on that too. Florida Southern was one of the eight teams to advance to the medal play portion of the tournament and by finishing fourth in stroke play, the Mocs earned the No. 4 seed. They began the day tied for eighth but jumped four spots after shooting 284 (-4) as a team. The only team with a better round than Florida Southern on Wednesday was top-ranked Barry, which was eight-under to secure the No. 1 seed. The Buccaneers were at -18 for the tournament, putting them seven shots ahead of defending national champion Lynn and 16 ahead of third-place West Florida.
Florida Southern was +2 in stroke play, but under par in both the second and third rounds. The Moccasins will now face Trevecca Nazarene in the quarterfinals Thursday morning. The Trojans, who made it to the national finals for the first time ever this season, were in a three-way tie for 10th at the start of the day but moved up to fifth with a 286 (-2).
Completing the field for medal play are Arkansas Tech, Cal State-Monterey Bay, and Lincoln Memorial. CSU-Monterey Bay was another of the teams tied for 10th place at the start of play Wednesday and climbed to seventh. Lincoln Memorial secured the final spot by one shot over Dixie State.
Six of the eight teams that are in this year's medal play were also there last year, and the top four teams (Barry, Lynn, West Florida, and Florida Southern) are all the same, though in a different order. Arkansas Tech and Lincoln Memorial have also returned to medal play.
VanDerLaan's 66 led Florida Southern Wednesday, but he was not the only Moccasin to break par, nor was he the only Moccasin in the top-five individually. Freshman Johnny Tucker posted his best round of the tournament with a one-under-par 71, and Anderson's even-par 72 put the senior in a tie for fourth in the final standings. The Mocs also counted a 75 from freshman Max Coutsolioutsos, and got a 76 from junior Chase Ibbotson.
Anderson was again methodical, starting his final round by parring the first seven holes. Birdies on 17 and 18 put him at -2 for the round and -6 for the tournament, and at that point he was tied for second overall. He played the front nine at +2, but that was still enough for him to secure his fourth-place finish with a 2012 (-4) and give Florida Southern two golfers in the top-10 for the first time since Steve Sokol and Steve Paramore were first and fourth in 2001. Anderson was tied with Lynn's Tomas Gana, five shots behind VanDerLaan, three behind Garcia, and one behind Carlson to complete the top-five.
Coutsolioutsos tied for 52nd place with a 222 (+6). He finished the day on a streak of six straight holes with either a birdie or par. Tucker tied for 64th with a 225 (+9) after his best round of the finals included six birdies. Four of those came on the front nine where he was three-under for the day. Ibbotson tied for 89th with a 231 (+15) and closed out the day with six straight pars to turn in his best round of the finals too.
The quarterfinal round begins Thursday morning at 7:30 with Florida Southern and Trevecca Nazarene going head-to-head starting on No. 10. Starting at 10-minute intervals, each golfer will play one member of the other team, and the winner of those individual matches will score one point each for his team. If the match ends in a tie, total strokes are used as the first tie-breaker.
The winner of the Florida Southern-Trevecca Nazarene match will play the winner of the Barry-Lincoln Memorial match Thursday afternoon beginning at 1:40. The national championship match is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m.