NORMAN, OK – Florida Southern senior John VanDerLaan has been named the 2018 Division II Jack Nicklaus Award winner, given annually to the national player-of-the-year in men's golf. The four-time All-American recently completed his final season with the Moccasins by helping them reach the semifinals of the NCAA Division II National Championships. He is the second Moccasin to win this award, joining teammate John Coultas, who was the 2016 recipient.
Given annually to the national players-of-the-year at each level of collegiate golf, the award is named after Jack Nicklaus, a Big Ten and NCAA Champion at Ohio State University who helped inspire and create the award in 1988. (The first Division II award was presented in 2003.) Mr. Nicklaus will recognize the award winners Sunday during the final round of the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, just outside of Nicklaus' hometown of Columbus.
In addition to receiving the Jack Nicklaus National Player-of-the-Year Award, the five recipients representing all divisions of college golf will compete in the Barbasol Shootout for an exemption into the PGA TOUR's Barbasol Championship, held July 16-22, at the Champions Course at Keene Trace in Lexington, Kentucky. The Barbasol Shootout will be held Saturday, June 2 at the storied Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio - the same club where Jack Nicklaus first learned the game of golf as a young boy.
VanDerLaan put together another fantastic season for the Moccasins as he set or tied numerous school records while helping lead Florida Southern to the national tournament for the fourth year in a row. The native of Southbury, Connecticut, who originally broke the single-season record for stroke average last year as a junior, broke it again this year with a national-best 69.05, becoming the first player in team history to turn in a sub-70 average. His seven individual wins were another record, topping the previous mark of six, which had been set by Jeff Klauk 18 years ago. He also tied for first in one other tournament before falling in an eight-hole playoff.
Among his seven wins were two postseason tournaments, as VanDerLaan brought home individual titles from the NCAA super regional and national finals. That made him only the third Moccasin to win both of those tournaments in the same season, joining Klauk from 2000, and Tim Crouch from 2014. In so doing, VanDerLaan became the ninth individual national champion in team history, and his score of -17 (66-68-65) was a new tournament record that gave him a four-shot win over Barry's Jorge Garcia.
In addition to his seven wins, VanDerLaan tied the school record for top-five finishes with nine (matching his total as a junior), and top-10 finishes with 11 (equaling the mark set by John Curley in 1994-95). The only time he did not place in the top-10 was the season-opening Griffin Invitational where he tied for 18th out of 90 golfers. His individual winning percentage of .969 is also believed to be a school record, ahead of his .950 percentage from a year ago, a .933 percentage by Coultas two years ago, and a .929 mark Klauk compiled in 1999-00.
VanDerLaan, who was also the Sunshine State Conference Men's Golfer-of-the-Year for the second year in a row, finished the season No. 1 in the Golfstat individual rankings, just ahead of last year's Division II Nicklaus Award winner, Chandler Blanchet of West Florida. He tied Blanchet for the D-II lead with 160 birdies (Blanchet played one additional round) and was tied for third with seven eagles. VanDerLaan also ranked first or second in par-3, par-4, and par-5 scoring, and along with Blanchet was one of only two golfers in the country who were even in the top-10 of all three categories.
In the annual Golfstat Cup competition, which takes into account a variety of statistical accomplishments, VanDerLaan went into the national finals ranked No. 4 among all golfers at every level of collegiate golf. Only three Division I golfers are ranked ahead of him, with the NCAA national tournaments still to be factored into those numbers.
VanDerLaan is the fourth men's golfer from the Sunshine State Conference to win the Division II player-of-the-year award in the last five years. In addition to Coultas in 2016, other winners from the SSC are Barry's Adam Svensson in 2014, and Nova Southeastern's Santiago Gomez in 2015.
In addition to VanDerLaan, the other 2018 recipients are Norman Xiong of Oregon from Division I; Josh Gibson of Hope (MI) from Division III; SM Lee of Dalton State (GA) from the NAIA; and Callum Bruce of Midland (TX) from the NJCAA.
Previous winners of the Nicklaus Award include Tiger Woods (1996), Phil Mickelson (1990-92), David Duval (1993), Justin Leonard (1994), Stewart Cink (1995), Luke Donald (1999), Hunter Mahan (2003), Bill Haas (2004), Ryan Moore (2005), Justin Thomas (2012), and Jon Rahm (2016) among many others. Award recipients have combined for over 200 victories worldwide and claimed 23 major championships.