CONOVER, NC – One day after posting one of the lowest rounds they have ever had in an NCAA postseason tournament, the Florida Southern Moccasins went even lower, and one year after winning his first individual regional crown, senior John VanDerLaan added another. With the Moccasins posting a team score of 10-under-par 274, and VanDerLaan pulling away on the back nine to win by three strokes, Florida Southern finished the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Super Regional as runner-up and the defending national champions are headed back to the finals.
The -10 tied the best score the Mocs have ever had in a regional tournament, which they also accomplished at last year's South/Southeast Super Regional in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. This one came with all four counters under par, and it wasn't even John VanDerLaan who had the Mocs' best score. That came from freshman Jacob Penny, who used four birdies and a bogey-free round to shoot a four-under par 67. VanDerLaan had a 68, John Coultas had a 69, and Michael VanDerLaan added a 70. Christian Anderson had the Mocs' fifth score with a 74, but was a counter in the first two rounds.
The only time the Mocs have had a lower score in any NCAA postseason tournament was the final round of the 1999 Division II Championships when they were 11-under-par in Valdosta, Georgia to secure the national title. This time, the 2nd-ranked Moccasins ended up second to top-ranked West Florida by three shots after the Argonauts posted a -11 on Wednesday, but they'll get another shot at the Argos at the national finals just as they did last year when they were the top two teams in the 2017 super regional.
VanDerLaan, who had a two-stroke lead over Lincoln Memorial's Sam Broadhurst and Carson-Newman's Tom Forster when the day began, was playing behind his closest competitors on the course Wednesday. Forster did not have a good day with a 77, and though Broadhurst shot a 69, it wasn't enough to catch VanDerLaan, who had a 68. When Broadhurst finished his round, VanDerLaan still had a two-stroke lead with three holes remaining, and slammed the door with a birdie on 18 to give him his three-shot margin of victory. His three-day total of 10-under-par 203 ties for the third lowest score at a South Region Tournament, a score bettered only by his own -15 last year, and a -13 by West Florida's Chandler Blanchet in 2017 as well. Blanchet finished third this year at -6.
VanDerLaan, who also finished fourth as a freshman in 2015, is the second Moccasin to win two regional titles, but the first to do so in back-to-back seasons. Jeff Klauk won it in 1998 and 2000, and on Wednesday, VanDerLaan also tied Klauk's school records for season wins (6) and career wins (10).
Previous regional champions also include Travis Perkins (1996), Wayne Raath (1999), and Tim Crouch (2014).
With the top seven teams moving on to the national finals, Florida Southern's spot was relatively secure going into the final round. The Mocs were 17 shots in the clear, leaving them to concentrate on first-place West Florida, and Barry with whom they were tied. The Buccaneers got off to a slow start though, and the Moccasins got off to a fast one, and by the end of the day, those two schools were separated by 10 shots. The Mocs could never quite catch the Argonauts though, even after getting within a single shot on more than one occasion. The two heavyweights left little doubt as to who the top contenders were, with West Florida using four scores in the 60s to post a 273.
Florida Southern's had three scores in the 60s and none was better than Penny's 67, which was one shot better than his previous career-best on Tuesday. The freshman dominated down the stretch with three consecutive birdies on 15, 16, and 17. He tied for fourth overall with a four-under-par 209, which gave Florida Southern and West Florida each two of the top-five golfers in the tournament.
Florida Southern's early leader on Wednesday was Coultas, as the senior chipped in from off the green for a birdie on hole one and added two more on 5 and 6, as both he and John VanDerLaan made the turn at -3. Even a tee shot that curled into the tall grass left of the fairway on 10 didn't slow him down, as he still parred the hole, and parred or birdied all but one on the day.
Michael VanDerLaan's 70 was his best of the tournament, and the junior really took off during the back nine. With birdies on 12 and 16, he was two-under during that span, and had only one bogey in the round. His scores dropped each day and he tied for 37th with a 220 overall.
Anderson tied for 48th with his 222, a score no other fifth golfer could match. The next best came from Barry's Tyler Bakich and Lynn's Carlos Bustos at 223. Most were in the 230s or higher. Anderson closed out his round by playing the final five holes at two-under.
The Division II National Finals begin Monday, May 21 in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Pairings and tee times will be announced at a later date.