INNISBROOK, FL – It should come as no surprise perhaps, that a tournament bearing the name of one type of dangerous snake should be won by a school bearing another. The Florida Southern Moccasins came from behind Tuesday at Innisbrook Resort to win the 2017 Copperhead Championship, behind a pair of brothers who finished in the top-five together for the first time in their college careers.
Florida Southern began the final round tied for third in a field that featured seven of the top-10 team ranked teams in the country, and 11 of the top-25, with the Moccasins at No. 3 in the most recent poll. The Moccasins had to move ahead of 2nd-ranked Lynn and 5th-ranked Nova Southeastern, and hold off top-ranked West Florida at the end to win the Copperhead Championship and claim their first team title of the season. They were the last to finish among those four teams, were up by five shots when West Florida completed its round, and saw that lead shrink to two before Michael VanDerLaan and John VanDerLaan slammed the door on their last hole.
With the first three Moccasins all shooting a 73 and in the clubhouse, Michael dropped in his final putt to par No. 18 and shoot a one-under par 70. John did him one better, sinking a birdie on 18 to provide Florida Southern with its final 3-shot margin of victory over West Florida, and turn in a five-under par 66. John wasn't quite finished though.
Tied with Saint Leo's Alberto Castagnara for the individual lead with an overall score of 208 (-5), a playoff was needed to determine the Copperhead medalist. John VanDerLaan won that by making par, while Castagnara bogeyed the hole. It was VanDerLaan's fifth career win and his 15th career top-five finish.
Michael VanDerLaan's final round 70 gave the junior an even-par 213 for the tournament, which tied him for fourth place. It was the first top-10 or top-five finish of his collegiate career and made him one of only four golfers in the field of 75 to shoot even par or better.
Florida Southern had two golfers tie for 20th place, as John Coultas and Jacob Penny each turned their final-round 73s into a total score of 218. Christian Anderson tied for 31st with a score of 222, once again putting all five Moccasins ahead of the fifth golfer from every other team in the tournament.
Coultas was one-under on the back nine Tuesday, which was where the Moccasins surged ahead. Their four counters played those holes at -1, while West Florida's counters were +3 over the same stretch. It was worse for second-round leader Nova Southeastern, which was +4, and Lynn, which was +7.
Florida Southern used those individual back nine scores to put together a team score of 282 (-2) in the final round, its best of the tournament, and tied with Nova Southeastern's second round score for the best by any team. Florida Southern was the only team though to have two rounds of par or better. That helped the Mocs finish three shots ahead of runner-up West Florida, five ahead of third-place Nova Southeastern, and seven ahead of Lynn. Saint Leo and Lander were tied for fifth, 18 shots behind the Moccasins.
Florida Southern will play its final tournament of the fall October 30-31 at Doral in the Miami Intercollegiate.