HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, FLA. – Florida Southern did not have far to go in order to make it into the top seven Friday, and now that the Moccasins are in one of the advancing positions for the national finals, they just need to hold it for one more day on the El Campeon Course at Mission Inn Resort. Thanks in large part to freshman Johnny Tucker's two-under-par 70, and another strong round by senior Christian Anderson, 8th-ranked Florida Southern is in fourth place at the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Super Regionals, and seven shots in the clear.
In addition to Tucker's 70 and Anderson's 72, the Moccasins received a 74 from freshman Max Coutsolioutsos, a 76 from junior Chase Ibbotson, and a 78 from senior Michael VanDerLaan. Their team score of 292 (+4) was tied for the second lowest of the day with 7th-ranked Florida Tech, and only one shot behind the score posted by 11th-ranked Young Harris, which used a 291 to move up from 15th place into a tie for eighth.
Florida Southern began the day in eighth place, but was only one shot out of seventh, the lowest spot that will move on to the national finals. Some of those ahead of them had already started their round before Florida Southern was on the course, and it took no time at all for the Mocs to make up ground. Starting on the back nine, the Mocs not only moved steadily up the standings, they got to within one shot of first place a little over halfway through their round. While making up the one-shot difference needed to reach seventh was a small thing, getting to the top meant Florida Southern would have to erase a 13-shot deficit and it almost happened.
No. 10 Lincoln Memorial, No. 3 West Florida, and No. 2 Lynn were the only teams to shoot even-par or better in round one and all three teams had the early tee times for round two. With those teams completing their second rounds as Florida Southern was still in the middle of its own, West Florida and Lynn tied for first at +9, and Lincoln Memorial dropped to third at +14. Florida Southern was sitting at +10 before eventually settling to +17.
When Ibbotson, the Mocs' final golfer of the day, walked off the course, that score actually had them in sixth place with No. 17 Saint Leo and South Carolina-Aiken also still ahead of them but not even halfway through their round. But as play progressed, Saint Leo and USC-Aiken fell behind the resting Moccasins, putting Florida Southern in fourth place at the end of the day. Once 13 shots out of first, the Mocs now trail the co-leaders West Florida and Lynn by eight, and are three shots behind Lincoln Memorial. The Mocs are three ahead of co-fifth place teams No. 1 Barry and No. 25 Columbus State, and six ahead of No. 14 Limestone. More importantly, the Mocs are seven shots up on three teams that are tied for eighth.
With Florida Southern starting on the back nine, Tucker jumped out of the gate Friday with birdies on 11 and 13 to start the Moccasins' drive forward. Shortly thereafter, Anderson had matched him with two birdies of his own, the first coming on 10, and the second on 14. Anderson seemed to hit every tee shot into perfect position for a par or birdie, and even on 10 when he had to come out of a sandy area near the trees on the left, he still birdied the hole. He nearly chipped in for another birdie on 13, with the ball coming to a rest a mere inch from the cup. He played both the back nine and front nine at even-par to finish at 72 for the day with a 146 (+2) for the tournament, putting him in a tie for 13th place individually.
Ahead of Anderson on the course, Tucker continued his torrid run with back-to-back birdies on 18 and 1. That put the freshman at four-under and had the Moccasins soaring. His back-nine score of -3 was a seven-stroke improvement over Thursday and he didn't stop there. He ran his streak to 12 straight holes with either a birdie or par before a bogey on No. 4. So far, it's the longest such single-round run for a Moccasin in either the conference or NCAA Super Regional Tournaments. That helped Tucker shoot his two-under-par 70 that his him tied for 36th with an overall score of 151 (+7).
Coutsolioutsos had a 10-hole streak of pars and birdies, with most of his coming on the back nine too. He went back-to-back on 14 and 15, a par-5 and a par-3, but his most impressive shot may have been on the par-4 No. 5. Leaving his approach short of, and below the green, Coutsolioutsos chipped in from some distance for his third birdie of the day. He's now tied for 27th with a total score of 150 (+6).
Also tied for 27th is Ibbotson who had a 76 that included a pair of birdies in the middle of the round. His score ranged from even-par to two-over for most of the day before bogeys on his final two holes.
VanDerLaan shook off a difficult start for the second day in a row, and though his score was not counted Friday, his 36 (+1) over the second half was tied for the Mocs' second lowest on the front nine. He's tied for 65th overall at 155.
Georgia Southwestern individual qualifier Vincent Norman is the tournament leader at -4, with Nova Southeastern's Juan Jose Guerra and Lincoln Memorial's Dan Bradbury tied for second at -3. Another Lincoln Memorial golfer, Sam Broadhurst, is the only other golfer under par through two rounds at -2.
The final round of the South/Southeast Super Regional begins at 7:30 Saturday morning, but the Moccasins will not tee off until noon and go off in 10-minute intervals. The top seven teams and two best golfers not with one of those teams will advance to the NCAA Division II National Finals.