KISSIMMEE, FL – With Florida Southern sitting in fourth place going into the second round of the NCAA Division II National Championships, the Moccasins got an early start Tuesday morning as they sought to strengthen their hold on one of the eight positions that would qualify for Thursday's national quarterfinals. The results were somewhat mixed for the Mocs, but nevertheless, strengthen it they did. Paced once more by tournament individual leader John Coultas, Florida Southern had a two-over par 282 that nearly matched their first-round score and allowed them to remain fourth, though with a much wider margin over the rest of the field.
Despite a great deal of shuffling throughout the day at Reunion Resort, the top five teams settled right back into the same positions they held at the end of round one, though Barry's lead over West Florida had increased to four shots. The 3rd-ranked Buccaneers and top-ranked Argonauts even had the two best scores again, with the Bucs turning in a two-under par 278, and the Argos checking in with an even-par 276.
Still in third place was 6th-ranked Florida Tech, which trailed Barry by nine shots, and 4th-ranked Florida Southern remained fourth, 10 shots off the pace. The Moccasins also closed the gap between themselves and the Panthers and spent much of Tuesday ahead of them. No. 12 Newberry (SC) remained fifth, but is now tied with Ferris State (MI), and those teams are now 13 shots behind Florida Southern.
The next two spots belong to 2nd-ranked Lynn (FL) and Le Moyne (NY). Lynn was the only newcomer to the top eight after vaulting nine spots Tuesday by matching Florida Southern with a 282.
Coultas led the Mocs with a 69, but John VanDerLaan wasn't far behind him with a 70. The Mocs also got a 71 from Christian Anderson and a 72 from Michael VanDerLaan as their other two counters, while Chase Ibbotson had a 76. Coultas' 69 and total score of 134 (-6) was enough to keep him in the lead by the same one-stroke margin he held Monday night, albeit over a different player, while Anderson and Michael VanDerLaan were tied for 17th with a 142 (+2). John VanDerLaan jumped up to 29th with a 144 (+4), and Ibbotson was tied for 76th with a 151 (+11).
In the first wave of teams to tee off Tuesday morning, the Mocs played through a brief passing shower right at the outset, and went on to play the front nine at -4, a four-shot improvement over Monday. That moved them ahead of Florida Tech and into third place, and within two shots of Barry, both of which were idle in the morning. The Mocs had eight birdies on the front side, three of them coming from Anderson and two from Michael VanDerLaan. John VanDerLaan, Ibbotson and Coultas all had one, but it was Coultas who had the best individual score, making the turn at -3.
After barely missing a birdie putt on the 498-yard, par-4 No. 1, Coultas came right back with an eagle on another par-4 at No. 2. It was the only eagle of the day after five were put on the board Monday. After five straight pars, Coultas birdied the 581-yard, par-5 No. 8. That put him at -8 for the tournament and four strokes ahead of second-place John Clare of Le Moyne, who was waiting for his 12:44 tee time.
After playing the front nine at -4, the Moccasins turned around and played the back nine at +6, leaving them at +2 for the day. Their only birdies came from Michael VanDerLaan on 11 and Anderson on 13, and for a time that was enough to keep them in third place before dropping back into fourth as the final wave of teams were beginning their round.
Coultas would eventually end up at -1 (69) for the day and -6 (134) overall, and with West Florida's Chandler Blanchet shooting a 66 to pull into a tie for second, it gave the Florida Southern junior a 2-stroke lead to take into the clubhouse. Clare of course still had to play for Le Moyne, and the senior from Camillus, New York parred the first eight holes before a birdie on No. 9 pulled him ahead of Blanchet and within a single stroke of the lead. He held that position all the way to 17 when he had his only bogey of the day, which dropped him into a tie for third with Blanchet and Barry's Mike Anderson.
That left another Barry golfer, Niclas Weiland, alone in second. Weiland had been one of eight golfers who shot a 68 on Monday, but he was one of only two in that group who made it back to the 60s on Tuesday with a 67.
Blanchet was able to close the gap on Coultas too with six birdies Tuesday, which was tied for the most in the round. The only other golfer with six was West Florida teammate Henry Westmoreland, who also tied for the day's second best individual score with a 67. The Argonauts desperately needed it too with Bryce Geraghty withdrawing for the day and leaving them with only four golfers. The 66 and 67 by Blanchet and Westmoreland gave the Argos a lift with their other two golfers, Christian Bosso and Jacob Huizinga shooting a 71 and 76 respectively.
With West Florida holding steady at -4, Barry knew exactly what was needed to maintain the same 2-shot lead it still held. The Buccaneers made it more than halfway through their round still holding a 2-shot advantage over the Argonauts before dropping into a tie with them early on the back nine. They quickly rebounded though behind Weiland, Anderson, Kyle Brey and Mario Beltran. Weiland had the 67 that put him second place individually, Anderson had a 68, Brey added a 71, and Beltran followed with a 72. The Buccaneers had 18 birdies in the round, 15 of them coming from the four counters.
Due to the weather forecast on Wednesday, the NCAA Division II Men's Golf Committee has altered the schedule for the final round of stroke play, and will use a shotgun start at 9 a.m. The top eight teams will then advance to the quarterfinal round of match play which is scheduled for Thursday morning at 7:30.