WINTER SPRINGS, FL – Junior Abbey Williams led Florida Southern in round one, freshman Amanda Gartrell did the same in round two, sophomore Tori Higgins was steady throughout the day, and senior Britta Bernth topped a list of golfers playing as individuals to highlight the first day of the Peggy Kirk Bell Invitational hosted by Rollins. Their play helped put the Moccasins in sixth place after the first two rounds at Tuscawilla Country Club.
Williams opened the tournament by shooting her best round of the season, an even-par 72 that put her in a tie for second place halfway through the day, just one stroke behind Linn Weber from Flagler. Williams had 14 pars and two birdies in that opening round for her best round since shooting a 72 at last year's NCAA South Super Regional Tournament.
With Higgins shooting a 75, and sophomore Madison Wetzel and fifth-year senior Shannon McKew each turning in a 76, the Moccasins had a team score of 299, their best score yet in their three spring tournaments. The only time the Mocs performed better as a team this season was in October at the GolfRank Invitational hosted by Nova Southeastern where they had rounds of 297 and 298. Gartrell had a 79 for the Moccasins in the opening round, which made Florida Southern, Nova Southeastern and Montevallo the only teams where all five golfers were in the 70s.
Rollins, however, had the first round lead with a 291 after all four of its counters shot 74 or better, with two at 72. Halfway through the day, the Tars led Nova by seven shots and Florida Southern by eight.
After being Florida Southern's fifth golfer in round one, Gartrell had the Moccasins' best score in round two with a two-over par 74. Higgins was again second, this time with a 77, and Williams was third with a 78. Wetzel had their fourth counting score with an 80, and the Mocs did not count an 82 from McKew. That added up to a 309 team score and it dropped Florida Southern from third to sixth at 608 for the day, with Montevallo, Flagler and Findlay (OH) all moving ahead of the Moccasins.
Though Florida Southern lost 10 shots off its team score from round one to round two, that wasn't the largest drop. Rollins went from a tournament-leading 291 to 304, and with Nova Southeastern posting a 297 in the second round, the Sharks were able to catch the Tars for first place at 595 overall. The Sharks' four counters all shot 77 or better and they also got a 70 from Michelle Ruiz, who claimed the individual lead.
Three shots behind Nova and Rollins was Montevallo with a 598, Flagler and Findlay were 10 shots off the tied for fourth place, and Florida Southern was 13 shots behind the co-leaders in sixth. The Moccasins were also only one shot ahead of 7th-place Florida Tech and three ahead of eighth-place Armstrong State (GA).
Individually, Ruiz and Florida Tech's Brittany LaPadula were the only golfers under par, Ruiz with a 142 (72-70) and LaPadula with a 143 (72-71). Rollins' Seher Atwal was third with a 145, putting her at one-over, and three players were tied for fourth, including Arin Eddy from Montevallo, who had a tournament-best 69 in the second round.
Williams ended the day in a tie for 10th place at six-over par 150, Higgins was tied for 18th with a 152, and Gartrell was tied for 24th with a 153. Wetzel had a two-round total of 156, which tied her for 33rd, and McKew had a 158, tying her for 39th. Nova Southeastern was the only team with a fifth golfer to score better than McKew.
The tournament also had 11 golfers competing as individuals, three of them from Florida Southern, and they held three of the top four positions among the individuals. Leading that group was Bernth, who had rounds of 77 and 76 for a 153 that tied her for 24th place. Junior Kolby McWilliams was tied for 46th with a 160 (80-80) and junior Anna Millet was tied for 49th with a 162 (80-82).
The final round of the Peggy Kirk Bell Invitational begins Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.