EATONTON, GA – For the second week in a row, Florida Southern's John VanDerLaan ended up in a playoff for medalist honors at another tournament where the competition was the best of the best in Division II men's golf. This one didn't go nearly as long as the first one did, but it resulted in a win for VanDerLaan who parred two playoff holes to defeat South Carolina-Aiken's Johnson Holliday for his fourth win of the season and eighth of his career.
VanDerLaan and Holliday each had scores of four-under-par 206. VanDerLaan was one of only three golfers in the field of 78 who had two rounds in the 60s, even on the par-70 course at Cuscowilla on Lake Oconee. Both of his came on Monday with a 67 and a 66, which had given him a three-stroke lead going into the final round. Holliday, though, made up the difference by out-scoring VanDerLaan 70-73 on Tuesday, which forced a playoff at the Bobcat Invitational for the second year in a row.
VanDerLaan and Holliday each parred the first playoff hole, No. 16, before moving on to 17. Once there, VanDerLaan again putted for par, this time to clinch the title. That not only gave the senior his fourth win of the season, but his sixth consecutive top-five finish. In one of those, last week's Southeastern Collegiate, he was runner-up in an eight-hole playoff. It also marks the third year in a row VanDerLaan has placed in the top-five at the Bobcat Invitational. He was runner-up as a sophomore and third last year as a junior.
Now with 20 top-five finishes in his career, VanDerLaan's four individual wins are the most for a Moccasin in one season since Steve Sokol won four times in 2000-01. Sokol won The Nelson (hosted by Stanford), the Matlock Collegiate Classic, the Sunshine State Conference Championships, and the NCAA Division II National Finals, with the last win coming in a playoff. The last Moccasin with at least eight individual career wins was Jeff Klauk with 10 from 1996-2000.
Last year's Bobcat Invitational was also decided in a playoff, with West Florida's Chandler Blanchet defeating Lynn's Manuel Torres. Both of them were back this year but not in the running. Blanchet, who was involved in last week's playoff in Valdosta, tied for 13th with a 214 (71-71-72). Torres tied for 23rd with a 217 (72-66-79).
This year's two playoff combatants finished one stroke ahead of Holliday's USC-Aiken teammate, Axel Ostensson. Holliday and Ostensson led the 14th-ranked Pacers to the team championship with a six-over-par 846, two shots better than top-ranked West Florida, which had by far the best score of the day at -2. Barry, which is ranked No. 4, finished five shots behind the Pacers in third place, 2nd-ranked Florida Southern was fourth, 16 shots back, and 3rd-ranked Nova Southeastern was fifth, 19 shots behind USC-Aiken.
With severe weather rolling through the southeastern United States on Tuesday and the wind picking up during the day, the conditions may not have been as conducive to the type of scores most of the teams were used to seeing. One day after the 15 competing teams averaged a 289 per round, the average moved up to 295, and that was skewed by West Florida's 278. The Argonauts were the only team to better Monday's average, and it still wasn't enough to catch USC-Aiken, which held on to its lead by shooting a 289. Of the five golfers who broke par Tuesday, two were from West Florida, and the others came from Barry, Georgia College, and Saint Leo.
While John VanDerLaan was the Moccasins' top golfer, Michael VanDerLaan showed up next on the leaderboard with a five-over-par 215. He matched his brother's third-round score of 73 to finish in a tie for 17th place. That gives him five top-20 finishes in six tournaments this season. The two brothers also finished tied for second in the tournament with 13 birdies apiece, two behind Holliday's total.
John Coultas gave Florida Southern another 73 from his position in the lineup, which put him at 222 (+12) for the tournament and tied for 41st place. Christian Anderson was the Mocs' fourth counter with a 79 and tied for 47th overall with a 223 (+13). Chase Ibbotson, who had been a counter in the first two rounds, shot an 84 to place 64th with a total score of 229 (+19).
After playing three weeks in a row, the Moccasins will be off next week before wrapping up the regular season in Miami Beach in the Battle at the Shores hosted by Barry on April 2 and 3.