Reversal of Fortune: Mocs Take Over First, Nova Now Second at National Finals

Reversal of Fortune: Mocs Take Over First, Nova Now Second at National Finals

NOBLESVILLE, IN – Before they ever took the course Wednesday, the Florida Southern Moccasins had already overtaken Nova Southeastern for first place at the Division II National Championship Tournament. When they walked off the course at the end of the day, they still had it, and the Mocs’ score of four-over par 292 had put them nine strokes ahead of Nova and Sonoma State.

At daybreak Wednesday, Nova Southeastern was ahead of Florida Southern by four shots (299-303), with Ferris State, Chico State and Queens University of Charlotte all within 10 shots as well. The Sharks were among the first teams to tee off, and after a rough start, they finished strong and had a team score of 305 in the second round. The real problem for Nova wasn’t that they played badly, but that Florida Southern played so well.

The Moccasins didn’t get started until shortly before 1:00, but they quickly widened the gap between themselves and the rest of the 20-team field. Led by Peter Creighton, who was one-under after six holes, and Danny Evelyn, who birdied three of his first five, the Mocs were five-under as a team after each player had gone through at least three holes. At that point, the Mocs were ten strokes ahead of Ferris State and no one else was closer than 15.

Though Evelyn and Creighton cooled a little after that hot start, Florida Southern maintained a double-digit lead for nearly the entire afternoon behind Matt Stauch and Jude Eustaquio. Both players were even when they made the turn, and both players birdied two of their first four holes afterward. By then, Ferris State had fallen to sixth and was nearly 20 strokes behind, while Nova had taken over second but was still 11 behind the Moccasins.

Defending champion Sonoma State found itself back into the mix too by shooting the best round of the tournament, and doing it with only four players available. The Seawolves shot a 291 (one stroke better than Florida Southern) and counted scores of 71, 72, 74 and 74. Their fifth golfer, who had their second-best score of round one, withdrew from round two, but it would have difficult to match the four scores turned in by his teammates.

When play was finished for the day, the deficit was back to single digits, but the Mocs were still very much in control with Stauch (fourth) and Shelton Smith (sixth) each among the individual leaders, and Creighton and Eustaquio not far behind (tied for 12th).

Stauch was one of eight golfers in the field to break par on Wednesday after none did so in Tuesday’s first round. The senior had Florida Southern’s best score of the round with a one-under par 71, giving him a 147 for the tournament. Eustaquio had a chance to break par too, but a bogey on his final hole caused him to finish even for the day and gave him a two-round score of 150.

Smith shot a 74 for the second day in a row, and Creighton also matched his first-round score with a 75. Evelyn improved by one stroke by shooting a 78.

Though Queens (NC) dropped significantly behind the leaders, the Royals still had the tournament’s top individual golfer at the end of round two. Starting the day tied for second, Ben Lasso became the first player in the field to break par with a two-under 70 that gave him sole possession of first place. He needed everyone of his seven birdies though, as Cyril Bouniol, an individual qualifier from Abilene Christian, shot a blistering four-under par to nearly take the lead himself. The two were separated by just one stroke (143-144) at the end of the day while Chico State’s Kyle Souza was also one stroke behind.

Stauch and Joe Juszczyk were four shots off the pace and tied for fourth, while Smith was in a four-way tie for fourth.

The third round at The Sagamore Club gets underway Thursday morning at 7:30, with the final round scheduled for Friday. The Moccasins won’t begin play again until 12:50, and are paired with Nova Southeastern and Sonoma State for round three.