HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, FLA. – The El Campeon Course at the Mission Inn Resort has been a challenge so far for some of the best teams in Division II men's Golf. Only one team broke par in Thursday's opening round of the NCAA Division South/Southeast Super Regional, only two were at even-par, and no one else was better than +9. Florida Southern is one of those teams in the mix, however, as the 8th-ranked Moccasins had a score of 301 to put themselves in eighth place, only one shot back of the seven positions that will advance to the national finals.
Florida Southern's position throughout the day fluctuated between fourth and eighth with teams moving up and down the standings all afternoon. The fifth through eighth positions are separated by only five shots, with each team one shot progressively behind the other. The Moccasins in eighth place though are three ahead of South Carolina-Aiken and Saint Leo, which are tied for ninth, and five in front of 11th-place Queens (NC).
The first-round leader may be a bit of a surprise, though Lincoln Memorial (TN) is still ranked No. 10 in the country. The Railsplitters were the only team to break par Thursday at 285 (-3) and were three shots ahead of No. 2 Lynn and No. 3 West Florida, the two teams that met in last year's national championship match. Following them are unranked Clayton State at +9, No. 25 Columbus State at +10, top-ranked Barry at +11, No. 14 Limestone at +12, and No. 8 Florida Southern at +13.
Nova Southeastern and Florida Tech, who are ranked fifth and seventh respectively, are tied for 12th at +20.
The Moccasins got counting scores of 74 from Chase Ibbotson and Christian Anderson, a 76 from Max Coutsolioutsos, and a 77 from Michael VanDerLaan. Johnny Tucker turned in an 81 as their fifth golfer.
Tucker was the first Moccasin on the course and started the day for Florida Southern with a tough birdie putt on the par-5 No. 1. The freshman rolled it in from the fringe of the green, and shortly thereafter VanDerLaan birdied the par-3 No. 2 to keep the Mocs rolling. A tough stretch followed for both golfers, though VanDerLaan turned with another birdie on 9.
Statistically, the seven most difficult holes on the course were on the front nine where the Mocs started, all of them from No. 2 through No. 8. That gave the teams that started on the back nine an early advantage, but teams like Florida Southern made up the difference later in the day. Six of the day's eight eagles came on the par-5 No. 14, and Anderson had one of those. That allowed the Mocs to play the back nine three shots better than the front, even with two bogeys from their counters on No. 18.
Ibbotson, who was playing in the number one position, led the Moccasins with four birdies in the round. The junior was two-under with three holes remaining, and in the individual top-five, but he bogeyed two of his final three holes with a double-bogey on 17. That pushed him back to a two-over-par 74 and tied with Anderson for 20th in the field of 108 golfers.
Coutsolioutsos made the turn at +3 after a double-bogey on No. 8, but had the best finish for the Moccasins. The freshman was one-under for the final five holes of the day. His 76 has him tied for 38th.
VanDerLaan had a strong finish too. The senior also turned at +3 after an up-and-down front nine but parred eight of his final nine holes. That was the Mocs' best score during that stretch.
Tucker is tied for 89th and had a pair of birdies, including the one which came on Florida Southern's first hole of the tournament.
Round two gets underway Friday morning at 7:30, with Florida Southern teeing off between 8:20 and 9:00.