MUSCLE SHOALS, AL – With one round remaining in the stroke play portion of the 2018 NCAA Division II Men's Golf National Championships, there is a little bit of a gap between the top eight teams in the tournament, and the bottom 12. The top eight, of course, move on to medal play Thursday, and the rest will be sent home. Florida Southern is far enough ahead of the curve (25 shots ahead to be precise) that advancement is pretty much certain, but as head coach Doug Gordin continues to remind his team, there is still the need to improve every day no matter the score.
On Tuesday, the Moccasins' score was a five-under-par 283, not quite what they had on Monday, but enough to keep them in third place at -12 overall. That will put them in the final wave on Wednesday along with Barry and West Florida, and allows them to face the Buccaneers and Argonauts head-to-head with the number one seed in medal play on the line. Barry put together the round of the day, and so far, the tournament, by shooting a 16-under-par 272 that moved the Bucs up four spots into first place. It pushed West Florida down to second, with the Argonauts now trailing the Bucs by three shots, and the Moccasins six back.
Those same three teams were in the first wave Tuesday morning, with the other contenders chasing them the rest of the afternoon. None of them got closer than Lynn, which was 10-under for the day, and is now at -9 for the tournament in fourth place. The Knights did pull within one shot of Florida Southern in the late afternoon but fell back after having to count a triple bogey on one of the par-threes.
Senior John VanDerLaan again led the Moccasins with a four-under-par 68, while Jacob Penny and Michael VanDerLaan also broke par with scores of 70 and 71 respectively. The Mocs' fourth counter was John Coultas with a 74, while Christian Anderson shot a 75.
John VanDerLaan was in the 60s for the second day in a row, but the first-round leader dropped to second on the individual leaderboard after a record-tying round by Barry's Jorge Garcia. A junior who transferred from the University of Florida this spring, Garcia equaled the tournament scoring record of nine-under-par 63 set by Chico State's Eric Frazzetta in 2012. He had nine birdies and no bogeys, and was one of two Buccaneers in the 60s, as he and Tyler Bakich accounted for 14 of the 16 under-par strokes they put on the board.
VanDerLaan is still only one stroke off the pace with a -10, however, and will now get to play in the same group as Garcia and defending champion Chandler Blanchet of West Florida with the individual national title on the line. Blanchet is in fourth place through two rounds with a -7, and just ahead of him in third place is Saint Leo's Oliver Lilliedahl.
John VanDerLaan's scorecard showed four birdies, including three of the final seven holes, though he acknowledged he did not have as many of the shorter putts he had in Monday's first round. His 10-under-par 134, however, is still the best individual score any Moccasin has ever had through two rounds of the national championships, and only two Moccasins have ever finished a national tournament with that score or better. Most recently it was Jeff Klauk with a -13 in 2000, when it was still a four-round tournament.
The most impressive feat of the day belonged to Penny, and it helped him shoot a two-under-par 70. The freshman was one-over going into the final two holes when he eagled 17 and birdied 18. The eagle on the par-5, 566-yard 17th hole came after he hit his second shot nearly 240 yards over a long water hazard to within three feet of the cup. That led to the Moccasins' first eagle of the tournament, but he wasn't finished. He nearly got another one on 18, a par-3 listed at 200 yards over a deep ravine off the Tennessee River. After missing a hole-in-one by a few feet, Penny rolled that putt in for his third birdie of the day and gave Florida Southern three shots back over his final two holes. It also put him in a tie for 15th place overall with a 142 (-2).
Michael VanDerLaan is also tied for 15th place following his second straight 71. The junior had a string of 11 consecutive pars to start the round before his only bogey came on the par-5 No. 12, a hole that tripped up Penny as well. VanDerLaan re-grouped after that, however, with a birdie on 13 and another on 17 for the second day in a row. He has only two bogeys through the first 36 holes, with everything else par or better.
Coultas was the Mocs' fourth counter, but his day got off to a rough start with an errant tee shot on No. 1 that led to a double-bogey on the par-5 opening hole. He worked his way back to even-par by No. 6 with a pair of birdies and was still even with six holes to play before a bogey on 13, and a double on 15 dropped him to +3. He got things going in the right direction again with a birdie on 17, which meant the four Moccasin counters played that hole at -5. Coultas is now tied for 35th at two-over-par 146.
Though Anderson was not a counter on Tuesday, the junior was the team leader for most of the first nine holes. He strung together three straight birdies from four through six, coming out of a bunker on four to set up that one. He then chipped his way out of trouble on seven, coming up a steep slope on the back of the green to save par. Anderson is tied for 58th with a 150.
Florida Southern will be teeing off Wednesday from 12:55 CST/1:55 EST to 1:39 CST/2:39 CST. The top eight teams after that move on to medal play, with pairings and tee times determined that evening following the completion of stroke play.