DAVIE, FL – The way Florida Southern was playing Monday and Tuesday at the Sunshine State Conference Men's Golf Championships, it was going to take something truly amazing to beat the Moccasins, and Florida Tech found a way to do it. The Panthers set a single-round tournament scoring record Tuesday afternoon with a -16, tied the total tournament scoring record at 19-under-par, and came from behind to finish four shots ahead of Florida Southern for the first men's golf championship in team history.
The Moccasins had a two-shot lead going into the final round over Barry, and Florida Tech was in third place, trailing the Moccasins by three. Over the final 18 holes, however, the Panthers climbed to the top of the standings with scores of 64, 65, 67, and a pair of 72s. Their -16 broke the previous single-round scoring record by two shots, which had been set by Florida Southern in 2009. The Panthers' total score of -19 equaled the record set by Barry in 2014.
Though Florida Southern finished second at -15, the Moccasins' score also makes the list of the best ever achieved at the conference finals. Only four teams, including Florida Tech, have had a better score in the long history of the SSC Championships, and the only time the Mocs have ever done better was in 2010 when they won the title with a -17. That tournament, like this one, was played at Grande Oaks Golf Club.
Barry's third-place score was also impressive, with the Buccaneers closing at -13 for the sixth lowest score in tournament history. Up until this year, there had never been three teams with scores of -10 or better, and there were nearly two more. Nova Southeastern finished fourth with a -9, and Lynn was fifth with a -8. The Sharks were 10-under in the final round, and the Knights were 11-under.
The first order of business on Tuesday was the completion of Monday's suspended round. The Moccasins had taken the lead then, but unless it could be completed in its entirety, those scores would not have counted, with the tournament standings reverting back to round one where Florida Tech originally led. With only about half of round two complete, the teams had an early start, and for Florida Southern that meant four golfers still had more than nine holes remaining.
The day started a little slowly, but by the time the Mocs were wrapping up round two they were rolling again just as they were on Monday. Michael VanDerLaan, Christian Anderson, and John Coultas all birdied 15, and John VanDerLaan eagled the 530-yard, par-5. It was his second eagle of the tournament, with his first coming on the par-5 No. 8 in Sunday's first round. That followed birdies by Michael VanDerLaan on 13 and Jacob Penny on 14, and after the entire team played 15 at four-under, the Mocs ended the round with three more birdies on 17 and 18.
John VanDerLaan had the Mocs' best score of the suspended round with a four-under-par 67, while Coultas, Penny, and Anderson all were at even-par 71. Michael VanDerLaan shot a 74 and matched his brother on the back nine at -1. That all added up to a team score of 280 (-4) that kept Florida Southern in the lead by two shots over Barry and three over Florida Tech, with Nova Southeastern seven shots back, and Lynn nine in fifth place.
Coultas, who had a share of the individual lead Sunday was tied for fourth at three-under, and one shot behind him tied for fourth was John VanDerLaan. Nova Southeastern's Juan Jose Guerra, another of the first-round co-leaders, was tied with Barry's Niclas Weiland for the lead at the end of round two with a six-under-par 136.
The Moccasins got off to a good start in round three as Michael VanDerLaan eagled No. 3, and John VanDerLaan and Coultas came through a few minutes later and birdied the same hole. Anderson had an early birdie too, and by the time all five Moccasins had made the turn, Florida Southern was seven-under for the round.
Unfortunately for the Moccasins, Florida Tech was 11-under. The Panthers got four consecutive birdies from Max O'Hagan on 2 through 5, and another one from their top golfer on 8, putting him five-under at the turn. They also had eight other birdies on the front nine (six from their counters) and an eagle from Galen Trew on the par-5 No. 3. All of that allowed the Panthers to move ahead of the Moccasins by one stroke with roughly half of the final round still to play.
Florida Southern continued to play well throughout the remainder of the third round but there was no catching Florida Tech. The Moccasins got two birdies apiece from all four of their counters on the back nine and were five-under during that stretch, and while that was enough to hold off Barry for second place, it still left them four shots behind Florida Tech.
Coultas and John VanDerLaan were Florida Southern's top golfers as the two seniors placed in the top-10 for the fourth time in their careers at the conference championships. They are the seventh and eighth players in league history to accomplish that, and the first Moccasins since Jeff Klauk and Wayne Raath did it from 1997-2000. Coultas tied for third at eight-under-par 205 (68-71-66), and VanDerLaan was sixth at four-under-par 207 (73-67-67).
Anderson tied for 14th with a one-under-par 212 (71-71-70), Penny tied for 16th at even-par 213 (70-71-72), and Michael VanDerLaan tied for 37th at nine-over-par 222 (75-74-73).
Guerra held on to his individual lead for Nova Southeastern and won the tournament with an 11-under-par 202, just one stroke off the individual scoring record. He finished two shots ahead of Weiland, and three ahead of Coultas and O'Hagan. Florida Tech's Han Xue was fifth after tying the tournament scoring record for an individual round with a seven-under-par 64. He now shares that record with Florida Southern's Steve Sokol (set in 2002) and Brian Richey (tied in 2009).
Florida Southern will now await the NCAA announcement on Friday night as to its seeding for the Division II South/Southeast Super Regional Tournament, which will be held in Conover, North Carolina from May 7-9. The Moccasins were ranked No. 2 in the most recent national and regional polls, and the top-10 teams in the South will qualify for the Super Regional.