COLUMBUS, GA – Halfway through the first two rounds of the Cougar Invitational, the Florida Southern men's golf team was in 11th place, though an eight-shot deficit at that point was far from insurmountable. As long as the Moccasins played well in the final two rounds, new head coach Lee White knew they would still be among the contenders at the end. The Moccasins did indeed play well, putting together a final-round score of -11 to climb all the way into first before No. 16 Carson-Newman (TN) went four-under on the final two holes to finish three shots ahead of Florida Southern.
White saw three of his players shoot in the 60s Tuesday on the par-71 course at the Country Club of Columbus, with senior Christian Anderson and junior Chase Ibbotson each carding a four-under par 67, and senior Michael VanDerLaan just behind them with a 68. Fourth counter Max Coutsolioutsos had an even-par 71, and Jacob Penny had his best round of the tournament with a 72. Collectively, they were eight-under on the back nine when they caught Carson-Newman at the top of the standings.
The Moccasins began the day tied for fourth with No. 8 Limestone (SC) but pulled away from the Saints early, as did the three teams still ahead of them, Valdosta State, Carson-Newman, and No. 5 Florida Tech. That left only four teams in contention for most of the final round, and by the end of the day, it was down to Florida Southern and Carson-Newman. The Mocs moved ahead of the other two roughly halfway through their own round and went to the clubhouse with a share of the lead at -6. An eagle by VanDerLaan, the Mocs' final golfer, did the trick with the senior doing that for the second time in the tournament, with both coming on 17.
Unfortunately for Florida Southern, Carson-Newman responded with its own eagle on 17, coming from its second golfer, Jackson Tyler. When Tyler followed with a birdie on 18, the Moccasins were down by three shots with three Eagles still on the course. Those three played their final holes at even-par to give Carson-Newman its three-shot victory.
While finishing three shots behind Carson-Newman, Florida Southern was three ahead of third-place Valdosta State and five ahead of Florida Tech. Fifth-place Lee (TN), which is ranked No. 24, was 19 shots off the pace, and defending national champion Lynn, ranked No. 2 coming into play, finished sixth.
Anderson and Ibbotson set the tone early for the Moccasins as their third and fourth golfers to tee off. With birdies on four and seven, Anderson made the turn at two-under, and Ibbotson wasn't far behind at one-under. Neither golfer had a bogey on the front nine and that streak continued on the back. Ibbotson started the second half of his round with a birdie on 10 and added two more on 14 and 17 to finish the day with a four-under par 67. Anderson had consecutive birdies on the par-4 No. 15 and the par-3 No. 16 to also shoot a 67 and give the Mocs another bogey-free round.
The 67 for Anderson was the third of his career, though his previous two at the McDonough Cup his freshman year, and the Saint Leo Fall Invitational as a sophomore, carried with them a -5 in relation to par. Ibbotson's 67 and his -4 relative to par were both career-bests.
VanDerLaan's 68 gave him a career-best three-round total of 208 (-5) as the Mocs' best golfer in the tournament, and he was the only golfer in the entire field with two eagles. He tied for fourth to equal the best finish of his career, something he also did at last year's Copperhead Championship. VanDerLaan was just two strokes behind Lincoln Memorial's Sam Broadhurst and Montevallo's Brady Carman who tied for first at -7. Broadhurst defeated Carman in a one-hole playoff for the individual title.
Ibbotson also had the best tournament of his college career, tying for sixth with a 209 (-4), and just as VanDerLaan did, scored in the 60s for the final two rounds. His 13 birdies in the tournament were one shy of the tournament leader. Anderson tied for 16th with a 212 (-1), making Florida Southern the only team in the field with three golfers under par.
Coutsolioutsos tied for 34th with a 217 (+4), and Penny tied for 59th with a 224 (+11).
Florida Southern's next tournament is the Copperhead Championship, October 15-16, in Palm Harbor, Florida.