DAVIE, FL – Day one of the 2018 Sunshine State Conference Men's Golf Championships took a little longer to complete than originally planned, but Florida Southern rode it out, and then rode under-par scores by senior John Coultas and freshman Jacob Penny into third place at the end of day. With Coultas tied for the individual lead at three-under par 68, and Penny in the top-10 as well, the 2nd-ranked Moccasins are just four shots back of 5th-ranked Florida Tech, and two behind 4th-ranked Barry.
The start of play was delayed by five hours due to rain in south Florida Sunday morning and forced a revised schedule that had all 11 teams teeing off at the same time in a shotgun start. Roughly two-thirds of the way through the action, the difference between first and eighth place was only eight shots, with Florida Tech and Barry sharing the lead at -4, and Coultas on top of the individual leader board with the same score.
By the time the first players finished their rounds, all but the top four teams had fallen at least 10 shots back and Florida Tech had sole possession of first. The Panthers held on to it by turning in scores of three-under-par 68 from Max O'Hagan and Ali Thurlow, with none of their five golfers shooting worse than 72.
O'Hagan and Thurlow were two of the golfers tied with Coultas for first place in the individual standings, with Nova Southeastern's Juan Jose Guerra the other. O'Hagan and Guerra caught Coultas with birdies on their final hole of the day, and O'Hagan birdied his final two holes. That group has a one-stroke lead over five golfers who shot a 69.
In addition to Coultas' 68, the Moccasins got a 70 from Penny, and counted a 71 from junior Christian Anderson and 73 from senior John VanDerLaan. Junior Michael VanDerLaan's 75 was the Mocs' non-counter, and only Florida Tech had a better score from its fifth golfer. That added up to a 282 for the Moccasins and put them five shots ahead of fourth-place and 12th-ranked Rollins. Sixth-ranked Lynn (289), No. 14 Saint Leo (290), and No. 3 Nova Southeastern (292) are in fifth through seventh place.
Three of the Moccasins started their day with bogeys on their respective opening holes, but it didn't take them long to re-gain their footing. All four counters had at least three birdies by the end of the round, and John VanDerLaan ended his day with an eagle on the par-5, No. 8. It was one of three eagles in the tournament on day one.
One thing that may have helped the Moccasins was getting No. 9 out of the way early, based on their starting position in the shotgun start. That hole tripped up nearly half the field, with 27 of the 55 golfers coming away with a bogey or worse.
Coultas started his round with back-to-back pars on 8 and 9 before the first of his five birdies came on No. 10. He slipped back to even-par with a bogey on 13, but from there played his final 12 holes at three-under. He was the tournament scoring leader on the par-fours at two-under.
Penny was the top scorer on the par-three holes, also at two-under, and was one of only eight golfers in the field to break par across those holes at Grande Oaks Golf Club. One of them was his last of the day and brought him down to -1 overall. His only two bogeys came on his first and fourth holes, leaving him at -3 the rest of the day.
Anderson's 71 included four birdies, and though he too started with a bogey, at no point during the day did his score ever climb above +1. He finished the day tied for 15th with defending champion Kyle Brey of Barry, but only three strokes behind the co-leaders.
John VanDerLaan battled through a rough stretch in the middle of his round that saw him pick up three bogeys and one double over four consecutive holes. That put him at +4, but five straight pars and the eagle on 8 cut that in half and moved him into a tie for 24th.
Michael VanDerLaan is tied for 31st and had two birdies in his round.
The second round of the SSC Men's Golf Championships begins Monday morning at 7:30 a.m., with Florida Southern in the last wave going off at 8:20.