KISSIMMEE, FL – Day one of the 2017 NCAA Division II National Men's Golf Championships saw the South Region take control of the team standings with five teams right at the top, and Florida Southern's John Coultas take control of the individual leaderboard with a five-under par 65. That score, along with a 70 from Michael VanDerLaan helped put the Moccasins in fourth place at the end of the day, six shots behind first-place Barry.
The 3rd-ranked Barry Buccaneers were among the teams assigned early tee times Monday morning, and they set the early standard with a six-under par 274 on the par-70 course at Reunion Resort. Top-ranked West Florida came close to that with a 276, 6th-ranked Florida Tech was just three shots behind with a 277, and 4th-ranked Florida Southern was fourth with an even-par 280. Newberry (SC), which is ranked No. 12, rounded out the top-five with a 282.
Le Moyne (NY) broke up the run of South Region teams by posting a team score of 283, which was good for sixth place, and Ferris State (MI) was seventh with a 286. Tied for eighth were 9th-ranked North Alabama and St. Thomas Aquinas (NY) at 287. Eight other teams were within seven shots of eighth place, with the top eight teams advancing to Thursday's quarterfinals of match play.
When Florida Southern and West Florida teed off at noon, the score to beat was Barry's -4, and Florida Tech was a close second at -3. The Buccaneers closed at -6 and the Panthers held on to their -3, while West Florida and Florida Southern gave chase throughout the afternoon. The Argonauts and Moccasins had to deal with the unrelenting heat and humidity too as the temperature climbed to a high of 91 halfway through their round and the rain that lingered in the forecast remained off in the distance.
It didn't seem to faze Coultas, a junior who has already had two fourth-place finishes at the National Finals in his career. With the Moccasins playing on the back nine to start, Coultas opened with a birdie on the par-4 No. 10 and added two more on 12 and 13. His lone bogey came on 14 before he reeled off 13 consecutive holes with either a par or another of his six birdies in the round. The only Moccasin to ever shoot better than Coultas in the opening round of the National Championships was Jude Eustaquio, who had a seven-under par 63 on another par-70 course in Houston in 2008.
Coultas' 65 gave him a one-stroke lead over John Clare of Le Moyne, and a two-stroke lead over five other golfers who had 67s. A total of 16 golfers broke par on Monday and 10 others were at even-par.
Barry's team score included three 68s, with the first two coming from the fifth and fourth golfers in the lineup, Daniel Faccini and Mike Anderson. The last one came from number one golfer Niclas Weiland, and all three of them had three birdies and one bogey. The Bucs' fourth counter was Mario Beltran with an even-par 70 that also featured three birdies and a bogey, though a double-bogey on No. 5 was the difference in his score.
Aiding Florida Tech's cause were eagles from Jonas Kugel and Gaelen Trew, and the Panthers also had 18 birdies, including a tournament-best seven from Max O'Hagan, who was five-under before a double-bogey on the par-4 No. 18 forced him to settle for a 67. Han Xue was right behind him with six birdies and matched O'Hagan's 67, but while the Panthers' third and fourth counters had a still-respectable 71 and 72, it was five strokes behind the Buccaneers' third and fourth.
West Florida eventually moved ahead of Florida Tech as the Argonauts' fifth golfer in the lineup, Christian Bosso birdied two of his final three holes to give the Argos a three-under par 67 from that position. The Argonauts then got a 71 from Bryce Geraghty, a 68 from Jacob Huizinga, and a 70 from Chandler Blanchet for their 276. That group combined to give West Florida 15 of its 16 birdies in the round, a number topped by only Florida Tech.
Starting play on the back nine Monday, the Moccasins were led by Michael VanDerLaan and Coultas in the early going, with VanDerLaan turning at one-under and Coultas making the turn at four-under. Both players birdied the par-4 No. 10 to start their day, Coultas added two more on 12 and 13, and VanDerLaan picked up another one on 14. Coultas then birdied 17 and 18 and remained at -4 until his sixth birdie of the day dropped him to five-under with three holes remaining and put him at the top of the leaderboard for the first time.
Meanwhile, Michael VanDerLaan had completed his round with five straight pars after four earlier birdies, and gave the Moccasins their first counting score of the day with a 70 that had him tied for 17th. Following shortly behind him was Christian Anderson with a 71, but his -2 over the final nine holes matched the same score Coultas had during that stretch. He came back after a double-bogey on his first hole to play the final 17 holes at one-under, putting him in a tie for 27th.
Florida Southern's fourth counter was John VanDerLaan with a 74. The individual champion of the South/Southeast Regional was playing at even-par after six holes before running into trouble on 16, 17 and 18. Those three holes saw him pick up two bogeys and one double, leaving him at four-over halfway through the round. He came back to play the second half even, and finished the day tied for 57th.
Chase Ibbotson was Florida Southern's non-counter on Monday with a 75 that tied him for 68th.
Round two of the 2017 NCAA Division II Men's Golf Championships at Reunion Resort begins Tuesday morning at 7:30 with Florida Southern again playing with Dominican (NY) and Stanislaus State (CA). Pairings for the third round on Wednesday will be re-done to reflect team scores in the tournament up to that point.