The defending national champion Florida Southern men's golf team is in North Carolina beginning Monday to take part in the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Super Regional at Rock Barn Country Club in Conover. Lenoir-Rhyne University is serving as host for the regional tournament that features ten teams from the South Region and ten from the Southeast along with eight individual qualifiers. The top seven teams and two best individuals not with one of those seven teams will advance to the NCAA Division II National Finals. Live stats can be found here or through NCAA.com.
This year's trip to the NCAA Tournament is the 46th for Florida Southern, but it will be the last for hall of fame head coach Doug Gordin, who has led the Moccasins to NCAA postseason play in every year of his 23-year tenure. Gordin will be retiring at the conclusion of this season, having already won six Division II national championships with 15 trips to the national finals, a measure of success unmatched since he arrived at Florida Southern in 1995.
In many respects, the South/Southeast Super Regional will be just as challenging as the National Finals. Of the 20 teams competing, 16 are ranked in the top-20 of the May 4 Division II national coaches poll, and three others are receiving votes. None of the other three super regionals have more than five nationally-ranked teams, and the South/Southeast Super Regional includes nine of the top-10.
Those top-10 teams ranked 1-9 are West Florida, Florida Southern, Nova Southeastern, Florida Tech, Barry, Lynn, Newberry (SC), South Carolina-Aiken, and Limestone (SC). The field also includes No. 13 Columbus State, No. 14 Rollins, No. 16 Saint Leo, No. 17 Lander (SC), No. 18 Lincoln Memorial (TN), No. 19 Carson-Newman (TN), and No. 20 Young Harris (GA). Georgia Southwestern, Delta State (MS) and North Greenville (SC) are receiving votes, and Albany State (GA) completes the loaded field.
Florida Southern has spent the entire season ranked in the top-three, and in every poll this spring, it's been West Florida, Florida Southern, and Nova Southeastern ranked 1-2-3. The Moccasins were runners-up at the SSC Championships, even with a -15 that was one of the best scores ever achieved at the conference tournament. Florida Tech won the SSC title this year, its first, with a record-breaking score of -19. The Moccasins now get another shot at the Panthers, as well as five other schools from the Sunshine State Conference: Barry, Nova, Lynn, Rollins, and Saint Leo.
Making the trip to North Carolina with Gordin are seniors John Coultas and John VanDerLaan, juniors Christian Anderson and Michael VanDerLaan, and freshman Jacob Penny. It's the same group that combined to shoot 15-under-par at the conference championships two weeks ago, and the four upperclassmen all played in last year's regional and national tournaments that resulted in the Moccasins' 13th national championship overall, and their sixth under Gordin.
John VanDerLaan is the reigning regional champion, winning last year's tournament with a 15-under-par 201 to defeat West Florida's Chandler Blanchet by two strokes. That was the lowest individual score ever recorded in a South/Southeast Super Regional and made him the sixth Moccasin to win a regional title. This year he's won five tournaments, leaving him one short of the school record set by Jeff Klauk in 1999-2000. His 69.27 stroke average is nearly one stroke lower than his school-record average last year. He's placed in the top-10 in all but one of Florida Southern's 10 tournaments this season and has seven top-five finishes.
Coultas, who like VanDerLaan is playing in his fourth regional tournament, was the regional runner-up two years ago as a sophomore. He also has the Moccasins' best stroke average during postseason play over the last four years. This year, his 70.47 average would be the third lowest in team history, and that's helped him post six top-10 and five top-five finishes including one win. He's also been runner-up in two other tournaments. He was the Moccasins' top golfer at the SSC Championships, tying for third place at eight-under-par. It was his fifth tournament this season with a score of -7 or better.
Anderson is playing in his third regional tournament and cut his regional score in half last year when he finished tied for 38th out of 108 golfers with a +6. He's coming off a 14th-place showing at the SSC Championships where she shot a one-under-par 212 in his best tournament of the season. He has a 73.40 stroke average that is more than one stroke lower than last year.
Michael VanDerLaan is playing in the regional tournament for the second time after tying with Anderson last year at six-over-par. He's seen his stroke average fall from 75.69 last year to 72.83 this year, and has placed in the top-20 in six of his eight tournaments. One of those was a fourth-place finish at the Copperhead Championship in October, a tournament that included nine of the same teams that will be playing this week at Rock Barn Country Club.
Penny is the only freshman on this year's roster and earned a spot in the NCAA postseason after putting together a 72.62 stroke average that is third on the team. He tied for 16th in the Sunshine State Conference Championships with an even-par 213, making him the top freshman in the tournament. He's had five top-20 finishes on the season.
The super regional format calls for one round each day beginning at 7:30 a.m. First and second-round pairings are pre-determined based on seeding, with the final round based on team scores up to that point. As the No. 2 seed from the South, Florida Southern will play the first two rounds with Nova Southeastern and Columbus State. The Moccasins will tee off Monday between 12:00 p.m. and 12:40 p.m., but will be in the first wave on Tuesday with tee times ranging from 7:30 a.m. to 8:10 a.m.
The teams will be playing the par-71 Jones Course at Rock Barn Country Club, which covers 7,021 yards. It will be the fourth time this year the Moccasins have played on a par-71 course. They've won two of the previous three, and had a runner-up finish at the SSC Championships in the other. Their last two tournaments on a par-71 course resulted in scores of 13-under par and 15-under par. This is the second time Rock Barn and Lenoir-Rhyne University have hosted the South/Southeast Super Regional, with the first in 2012.
Since the NCAA began holding regional tournaments for D-II men's golf in 1996, Florida Southern has won four region championships, which is tied with North Alabama and West Florida for the most in the South/Southeast. The Mocs' last region title was in 2006, and since then they've finished either second or third six times. The Mocs were second last year behind West Florida at 10-under-par, a score that would have won all but two of the previous 22 regional tournaments.
Florida Southern has won 13 national championships in men's golf, by far the most in Division II. That's more than twice the number won by the second team on the list, Columbus State, and 10 more than any other team. The 13 titles are also the most for any team at any NCAA level over the last 41 years.
The 2018 Division II National Championships are being held in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, May 21-25.