WINTER HAVEN – With Shannon McKew and Abbey Williams each shooting a two-over par 74, Tori Higgins adding a 76, and Britta Bernth carding a 77, Florida Southern had a team score of 299 in the opening round of the 2017 Sunshine State Conference Championships. That score made Florida Southern one of six teams to break 300 Sunday at the Country Club of Winter Haven, with Florida Tech the tournament leader at 290.
The Moccasins' 299 was only two shots away from their best single-round score of the season, and it was their best opening round in the SSC Tournament since starting with a 294 in 2011. It also put them nine shots behind the first-place Panthers, and only five behind second-place Barry. Nova Southeastern and Saint Leo were tied for third with scores of 295, and Rollins was fifth with a 296. It marked the first time in the tournament's 19-year history that six teams broke 300 in one round. Prior to this year, the most had been four teams in the final round of the 2015 tournament.
McKew led the Moccasins with four birdies, all of them on her final 10 holes. Williams had three birdies, and was one-under for the final eight holes. McKew's 74 was her best round of the season, and Williams had her best score since shooting a 72 in the opening round of the Peggy Kirk Bell Invitational on March 13. That put the two Moccasin golfers in a tie for 11th place individually, four strokes off the pace. Higgins and Bernth each had one birdie and were the only Moccasins without a double bogey, which allowed them to tie for 17th and 21st respectively. Amanda Gartrell, the team leader with a 76.58 average coming into play, shot an 86, but the Mocs did not have to count her score.
Florida Tech's 290 was the third best single-round score ever turned in by a team at the SSC Championships, and the best for an opening round in nine years. The Panthers, who were ranked No. 8 in the Golfstat rankings coming into play, out-shot top-ranked Barry by four shots, though both teams had one of the co-leaders in the individual standings. Karolyne Shieh led Florida Tech with a 70, and Charlotte Puts matched her with a 70 for the Buccaneers.
Shieh birdied a tournament-best seven holes on Sunday, five of them on the back nine before back-to-back bogeys on 17 and 18 ended her day. Another factor in Florida Tech's lead was an eagle by Paola Ortiz on 18, which gave the Panthers a little more breathing room at the end of the day. Ortiz was the Panthers' third counter with a 73, following Shieh's 70 and a 72 by Guro Rambjoer. Sarah Thomas had a 75 to complete their scoring, while Brittany LaPadula, who was in the top position in the lineup, had an 83.
While Nova Southeastern and Saint Leo were tied for third, they went about it different ways. The Sharks got a pair of 71s from Michelle Ruiz and Jamie Freedman before getting a 76 and 77 from their other counters. The Lions' best score was a 73 from Izzy Lawrence with three 74s after that.
With Lexie Toth shooting a 71 for Rollins, five individuals broke par on Sunday, the most in one round in SSC Championship history. The previous record was three.
The second round of the SSC Championships begins Monday morning at The Country Club of Winter Haven at 8 a.m.