MIAMI BEACH, FL – In the final tournament of the regular season, last year's national champion and national runner-up geared up for another postseason run with a back-and-forth battle that wasn't decided until the final hole. When it was, 2nd-ranked Florida Southern had come out one shot ahead of 7th-ranked Lynn at -13, and two Moccasin senior All-Americans were headed to a playoff for the individual title. On that extra hole, John VanDerLaan edged John Coultas with an eagle for his fifth win of the season.
With a 14-shot gap between fifth and sixth place going into the final round, only the top five teams had a realistic chance of winning the tournament, and those five were separated by just eight shots with Florida Southern (-10) on top by two over Lynn (-8). The Knights came out of the gate strong too, and behind three early birdies from Jorge Villar and Carlos Bustos, briefly moved in front of the Moccasins before all five players from both teams were on the course.
The Mocs regained the lead though behind Coultas, who birdied his first three holes while their other three counters were one-under. Meanwhile, playing in the wave ahead of the leaders, Nova Southeastern was closing the gap as Benjamin Hjort made the turn at -4, and the Sharks were -6 as a team. By the time the Sharks were down to their last few holes in the early afternoon, the top three teams were separated by only three shots, with Lynn at -9, Florida Southern at -8, and Nova at -6. Barry was eight shots off the pace and Florida Tech had fallen out of the running.
Coultas again got the Moccasins back in front with consecutive birdies on 14 and 15, and though Lynn's Manuel Torres birdied the same holes, a double-bogey on 15 by Villar was costly for the Knights. The Mocs, however, gave the lead right back when VanDerLaan doubled 15, and Nova Southeastern applied a little more pressure after three of its golfers had birdies on 18. That sequence ended the day for Nova, giving the Sharks a final score of -8 that pulled them even with the Moccasins in second place, though Lynn and Florida Southern were still playing the final three holes.
The Moccasins caught the Knights again after Christian Anderson ended his round with three straight pars and Jacob Penny birdied two of his final three holes. The Knights had two birdies during that sequence as well, but a bogey by Bustos on 17 cost them a shot, and left both teams at -10 with three golfers each still on the course, including their possible non-counters.
The lead changed hands one more time, and it was Coultas who delivered for Florida Southern down the stretch. After Michael VanDerLaan came through with an important birdie on 16 before ending his round with back-to-back pars, Coultas charged to the finish line with birdies on 17 and 18. That lowered his own score to six-under-par 65, moving him to the top of the individual leaderboard, and Florida Southern two shots ahead of Lynn with only John VanDerLaan and Tomas Gana still playing.
When VanDerLaan and Gana each played their final three holes at one-under, the Mocs had their fourth win of the season and their third with a score of -10 or better. The tournament was not quite over though. With his birdies on 16 and 18, VanDerLaan was able to tie Coultas for the individual lead, sending him into a playoff for the third consecutive tournament. The previous two went eight holes and two holes, but VanDerLaan ended this one on the first hole with an eagle.
It was VanDerLaan's fifth win of the season, his sixth time finishing first or second, and his seventh straight top-five finish. Only Jeff Klauk has won more tournaments in a single season than VanDerLaan with six titles in 1999-2000. It was also VanDerLaan's ninth career win, one shy of Klauk's total from 1996-00.
With Coultas and VanDerLaan each shooting an eight-under-par 205, it marks the fourth time in their careers the two seniors have claimed the top two spots in a tournament, and the 11th time both have been in the top-five. They were two shots ahead of Barry's Jorge Garcia, and three ahead of Gana and Juan Jose Guerra of Nova Southeastern.
One interesting aspect of Tuesday's win was that while Coultas' 65 was the Mocs' best score of the day and the best in the tournament, John VanDerLaan was Florida Southern's non-counter with a 73. All three of the other Moccasins, Penny, Anderson, and Michael VanDerLaan, shot a 72.
Michael VanDerLaan tied for 16th at +1 (214), Penny was 30th at +5 (218), and Anderson was 37th at +9 (222).
Florida Southern's next tournament is the 2018 Sunshine State Conference Championships, April 22-24, at Grande Oaks Golf Club in Davie with Nova Southeastern serving as host.