DANIELS, WV – One day after Florida Southern got an individual national title from one of its senior golfers, the second one put together a comeback win for the ages that helped propel the Moccasins into the national semifinals. Christian Anderson overcame a five-stroke deficit halfway through his match to post the decisive win in his match after junior Chase Ibbotson came back from a two-stroke deficit with five holes to play to tie the score. Combined with an earlier win by Michael VanDerLaan, that gave No. 8 Florida Southern a 3-1-1 win over Trevecca Nazarene and set up a match against No. 10 Lincoln Memorial later Thursday afternoon.
Of the four quarterfinal matches played, the one between Florida Southern and Trevecca Nazarene was the tightest. VanDerLaan, who was first off the tee on No. 10, led nearly all the way in his individual match against John Leverton, but did not secure a three-stroke win until the final hole. Two of the other individual matches involving Ibbotson in the third position and Johnny Tucker in the fifth were never more than two strokes apart. When VanDerLaan was the first to finish, each of the other three quarterfinal matches had at least one golfer holding a minimum of a six-stroke lead.
The only time VanDerLaan trailed was on the first hole, which he parred after Leverton birdied. VanDerLaan, however, immediately tied the match by parring No. 11, and took a one-stroke lead with a birdie on 12. The lead went up to three strokes when VanDerLaan parred 13 and Leverton had a double-bogey. The lead was still three when they made the turn with VanDerLaan even and Leverton at +3. VanDerLaan was +5 on the front side, but Leverton could never quite catch him. Twice the deficit was cut down to one, the second time occurring with just one hole to play, but VanDerLaan took No. 9 by two shots to clinch the match with a 77.
Trevecca Nazarene tied the match when Blain Turner picked up a two-stroke win over Max Coutsolioutsos, 76-78. Turner had a four-stroke lead after 10 holes, and Coutsolioutsos chopped it down to one with a birdie on the par-5 No. 2, and another birdie on the par-3 No. 3 that followed. Over the next two holes they battled evenly, but Turner went back on top by three strokes again when he parred No. 6, and Coutsolioutsos could not make much headway after that.
With the team scored tied 1-1, the Mocs still had three golfers on the course, with Ibbotson and Anderson each leading their matches by only one stroke, and Tucker tied in his. Knowing any of those three could swing in the wrong direction, the Mocs were able to breathe just a little bit easier when Ibbotson crossed the finish line with a two-stroke win over Conner Conkel.
Ibbotson and Conkel had been slugging it out from the start with the match tied at seven different points, Ibbotson holding the lead seven times, and Conkel three. It had been tied on back-to-back holes with three remaining before Ibbotson parred No. 7 and Conkel had a bogey. After both players bogeyed No. 8, the match came down to the final hole, which Ibbotson parred to clinch the point for Florida Southern with what turned out to be a two-stroke win. His one-over-par 73, which included two critical birdies, was his best round of the national tournament.
That left the possible deciding point to Anderson, and the senior completed his massive comeback to send Florida Southern into the semifinals. Anderson had led by one stroke after the first two holes, but lost the lead on No. 12 when he bogeyed the par-5 and Ryan Rozic birdied it. He fell two shots behind on 14 after another bogey/birdie situation, and a third birdie by Rozic on 18 sent them through the turn with Anderson trailing by five shots. But the veteran Moccasin needed just three holes to erase all of that with a birdie on the par-4 No. 1 and an eagle on the par-5 No. 2 before he parred No. 3 to tie the match while Rozic went bogey, par, and bogey.
Anderson eventually took the lead by one shot when he birdied No. 6 and held it the rest of the way. His even-par 72 was the Mocs' best score of the quarterfinals and it included three birdies and one eagle. He played the second half of his round at -2, and the Mocs needed all of it with Rozic also turning in Trevecca Nazarene's best score (73).
The final individual match between Tucker and Larken Whittemore ended in a tie after each golfer shot a 75. They were tied nine different times, but Whittemore held the lead only once, and that came after the second hole of the day. Tucker's birdie on 12 evened the score again, and it was either tied or in his favor the rest of the morning. Whittemore did come back from a two-shot deficit with the aid of a birdie on No. 5, but their head-to-head score remained tied for the final five holes.
Florida Southern now advances to play Lincoln Memorial in the semifinals after the Railsplitters upset top-ranked and top-seeded Barry in the quarterfinals, 3-2. It's the second time in the last three years Barry has finished first in the stroke play portion of the tournament but lost in the quarterfinals. Only one time since the NCAA adopted this format in 2011 has the winner of stroke play gone on to win the national championship (Saint Leo in 2016).
The other semifinal match will pit 2nd-seeded Lynn against 3rd-seeded West Florida. Lynn defeated Cal State-Monterey Bay 4-0-1, and West Florida defeated Arkansas Tech, 5-0.