The NCAA postseason begins Thursday for the Florida Southern men's golf team as the Moccasins open play in the Division II South/Southeast Super Regional. The three-day, three-round tournament is being played at the Mission Inn Resort in Howey-In-The Hills, Florida with Rollins College serving as host. It includes 10 teams from the South and 10 from the Southeast along with eight individual qualifiers. The top seven teams and the top two golfers not with one of those teams will advance to the Division II National Championships in Daniels, West Virginia, May 20-24.
The Moccasins are in the NCAA Tournament for the 47th time overall and the 42nd year in a row, but it's their first appearance under head coach Lee White, who took over the program this season for the retiring Doug Gordin. White, however, is a veteran of NCAA postseason tournaments himself, having served as Florida Southern's assistant coach for four of them, and participating in two more while playing for the Moccasins.
The South/Southeast Super Regional is again the most challenging of the four super regionals being held. The success of the teams that have advanced from this super regional is unmatched anywhere else in the country, and it is for that reason the South/Southeast has been allocated the maximum of seven spots at the national finals. The Midwest/Central will send six teams to the finals, the West/South Central will send four, and the Atlantic/East will send three.
Of the 20 teams competing in the South/Southeast Super Regional, 13 are in the most recent Bushnell/Golfweek national coaches poll, and five more are among those receiving votes. That means there are more top-25 teams in the South/Southeast than the other three super regionals combined, and the list includes seven of the top-10.
Playing in this week's tournament are unanimous No. 1 Barry, No. 2 Lynn, No. 3 West Florida, No. 5 Nova Southeastern, No. 7 Florida Tech, No. 8 Florida Southern, No. 10 Lincoln Memorial, No. 11 Young Harris, No. 14 Limestone, No. 15 Carson-Newman, No. 17 Saint Leo, No. 22 Rollins, and No. 25 Columbus State. South Carolina-Aiken, Clayton State, Flagler, Valdosta State, and Queens of Charlotte are all among the next nine schools receiving votes. Completing the super regional field are Albany State and North Greenville. The NCAA seeding within each region closely followed the rankings from the national coaches poll, though Florida Southern was seeded ahead of Florida Tech in the South.
The Moccasins have been ranked in the top-10 in every poll this season and have already beaten 16 of the 19 teams they will be competing against this week. One of the teams the Mocs have not beaten this season is North Greenville, who they have not faced. The others are Young Harris, to whom the Mocs finished second at the Newberry College Invitational in February; and Carson-Newman, to whom they finished second at the Cougar Invitational in September. Florida Southern is also one of only two teams to have beaten top-ranked Barry this season, with the other being Lynn.
Representing Florida Southern this week are seniors Christian Anderson and Michael VanDerLaan, junior Chase Ibbotson, and freshmen Max Coutsolioutsos and Johnny Tucker. That group gave Florida Southern two tournament runner-up finishes this spring and a fourth-place finish in the conference championships against many of the same teams they will be facing in the super regional. All three of the Florida Southern veterans have played in previous NCAA Tournaments, and all of them were part of the Moccasins' 2017 national championship team.
Anderson has played in the NCAA postseason all four years of his career, and in all but two tournaments overall for the Moccasins. He heads to the South/Southeast Super Regional with a 74.44 stroke average this year and a 74.40 career average. Anderson has a pair of 11th-place finishes against top-flight competition this year, doing that at the Otter Invitational in October and the Bobcat Invitational in March. He also tied for 16th at the Cougar Invitational with a one-under-par 212.
VanDerLaan is also playing in the NCAA postseason for the fourth time, and will be competing in his third super regional. He's second on the team this year with a 73.72 stroke average and his 74.46 career average is very close to Anderson's. VanDerLaan leads the Moccasins with 10 under-par or even-par rounds this season and has two of their best individual finishes. He tied for fourth with a five-under-par 208 at the Cougar Invitational in September and stood alone in second with a one-over par 217 at the Newberry College Invitational under trying conditions in mid-February.
Ibbotson is coming off a 12th-place finish in the Sunshine State Conference Championships where he was Florida Southern's best golfer at even-par 216. His best tournament though came in the same Cougar Invitational where Anderson and VanDerLaan finished 11th and fourth respectively. Ibbotson was sixth with a career-best four-under-par 209, surpassing his 11th-place showing and even-par 216 at the 2017 South/Southeast Super Regional. He is scheduled to play the number one position this week in the first two rounds of the 2019 super regional.
Coutsolioutsos leads Florida Southern with a 73.56 stroke average, which is slightly ahead of VanDerLaan's average. That helped him earn Second Team All-SSC and SSC Freshman-of-the-Year honors. Coutsolioutsos' average in the spring has fallen to 72.95 and includes a runner-up finish at the Matlock Collegiate Classic, a ninth-place finish at the Newberry College Invitational, and an individual win in a dual match against Columbia.
Tucker brings a 74.70 stroke average into his first NCAA Tournament, and after playing in only two of the first five tournaments, has played in the last six. That stretch started when he tied for 28th out of 90 golfers at the Newberry College Invitational and includes a 17th-place finish at the Bobcat Invitational.
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. 5 seed from the South, Florida Southern will play the first two rounds with Nova Southeastern and Limestone. The Moccasins will tee off Monday at 10-minute intervals between 12:50 and 1:30 p.m., and on Tuesday at 10-minute intervals between 8:20 and 9 a.m.
The teams will be playing the par-72 El Campeon Course at the Mission Inn, which covers 7,050 yards. This is the fourth time the Mission Inn has hosted a Division II men's regional or super regional tournament. It was previously the host site in 2000, 2013, and 2016, with Florida Southern, Nova Southeastern, and Lynn winning those tournaments in that order. The Moccasins were third in both 2013 and '16.
Since the NCAA began holding regional tournaments at the Division II level, Florida Southern is the only team from the South to have played in all of them. The Moccasins have won the South, or South/Southeast Super Regional four times, been second or third on 10 other occasions, and in the top-five 17 times. The only team to win the South or South/Southeast Super Regional more than Florida Southern is West Florida with five such titles. The Moccasins were runner-up to the Argonauts last year with Barry third and Lynn fourth.
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 42 years.
The 2019 Division II National Championships are being held this year in Daniels, West Virginia, at the Resort at Glades Springs, May 20-24.