VIERA, FL – With all four counters in the top-10, and John Coultas at the top of the leaderboard, 2nd-ranked Florida Southern held a four-shot lead over 6th-ranked Barry at the end of round one in the Panther Invitational hosted by Florida Tech.
The Moccasins, who are the defending champions in the event, posted a team score of 285 (-3) Sunday that included a 68 from Coultas, a 70 from John VanDerLaan, a 73 from Christian Anderson, and a 74 from Jacob Penny. That quartet combined for 12 birdies, which actually ranked fourth on the statistical chart at the end of the day, but none of the teams ahead of them on that list could match Florida Southern in all-around play. Those same four Moccasins combined for nine bogeys, while Barry had 14 plus one double-bogey among its counters. Third-place and 5th-ranked Florida Tech had only nine bogeys as Florida Southern did, to go along with nine birdies, but the Panthers also had two doubles and one triple to finish the day at 295 (+7).
Coultas ended the day at the top of the leaderboard by a single stroke over Florida Tech's Max O'Hagan, one of his playing partners on Sunday. Coultas birdied the opening hole, the longest on the course at Duran Golf Club covering 568 yards, but followed that with a bogey on 2. O'Hagan parred both holes but could never gain an advantage as Coultas birdied 5 and made the turn still one-under. O'Hagan, meanwhile, continued his streak of pars all the way through 10, but even his first birdie on 11 wasn't enough to catch Coultas, as the Mocs' lead golfer and No. 7 ranked individual in the new Golfstat rankings, birdied 11 and 12.
O'Hagan later had back-to-back birdies of his own on 15 and 16, but again lost ground when Coultas eagled the par-5 No. 15, dropping to five-under. That was the only eagle for any of the 68 golfers in the field Sunday. He held a two-stroke lead until 18 when he had his second bogey of the round and O'Hagan finished with another par.
VanDerLaan, who moved up to No. 1 in the Golfstat individual rankings last week, played the first round at two-under and was tied for third at the end of the day. He had the lead in the early going after birdies on 3 and 4, but fell back into a tie with Coultas after a bogey on 10. He then recovered with two more birdies on 11 and 12, but Coultas' eagle on 15 provided a two-stroke difference, and it remained that way over the remainder of round one.
Anderson didn't have the birdie totals of his two senior teammates, but the junior was very steady with his one-over-par 73 and was ninth. He had a birdie on 3, and bogeys on 6 and 8, but finished the round with 10 straight pars. That gave him 16 holes of even-par or better, which tied him with Coultas, VanDerLaan, Niclas Weiland of Barry, and Tom Forster of Carson-Newman for second in that department in Sunday's opening round. Only O'Hagan had a better number there, playing all 18 at even-par or better.
Florida Southern's fourth counter was Penny, who had a streak of three straight birdies from 7 through 9 to make the turn at two-under. He was the only golfer to birdie three consecutive holes on Sunday, and even after playing the back nine at four-over, Penny still had a 74 for the round, which tied him for 10th.
The Moccasins also got a 76 from Chase Ibbotson, who was tied for 19th, and an 86 from Michael VanDerLaan who was playing as an individual. Ibbotson's scored was tied for the best among any of the 11 team's non-counters. Tyler Bakich also shot a 76 for Barry.
Round two of the Panther Invitational gets underway Monday morning at Duran Golf Club at 8 a.m.