DAYTONA BEACH, FL - With junior Tori Higgins owning a share of the individual lead, sophomore Amanda Gartrell fourth, and freshmen Ashley Zagers and Shelby Lewis tied for sixth and ninth respectively, Florida Southern finished the first round of the Lady Falcon Invitational in second place with a team score of 305. That put the Moccasins just one shot behind host Daytona State with one round remaining.
The weekend tournament at LPGA International was a late addition to the schedule for Florida Southern after Hurricane Irma wiped out the Ross Resorts Invitational earlier in the week. That made it Florida Southern's opening tournament of the season, and the Moccasins got off to a good start behind two of their returning veterans and two newcomers. Higgins, Gartrell and Zagers were all part of the Mocs' regular lineup, while Lewis was playing as an individual. The Mocs even played without senior Abbey Williams, who was not yet back from the campus evacuation in time for the tournament.
Higgins had a one-over par 73 on Saturday, which locked her into a first-place tie with Saint Leo's Synne Lauritzen and Daytona State's Jiwon Jeon. That was just one shot off her career-best. Gartrell was one stroke behind them with a 74, and Zagers shot a 77 in the first round of her college career. The Moccasins' fourth counter was junior Madison Wetzel with an 81, while sophomore Victoria Cangero carded an 85. Cangero was playing in her first tournament since missing the entire spring portion of the 2016-17 season, which followed a strong finish last fall.
Lewis was not only the best of Florida Southern's three individuals Saturday, she was tied for the best score among all 13 individuals in the tournament. Her 79 would have been the best score, or tied for the best, for six of the nine competing teams as well, including Division I Florida Atlantic, and fellow Sunshine State Conference schools Tampa, Palm Beach Atlantic and Embry-Riddle. Rounding out the Florida Southern individuals were senior Kolby McWilliams with an 89, and senior Anna Millet with a 93.
While the Moccasins trailed Daytona State by just one shot, they were holding off third-place Saint Leo by four shots. That four-shot difference essentially came from Gartrell, whose 74 was four strokes better than the Lions' second golfer on Saturday, Izzy Lawrence.
The Mocs were a comfortable 20 shots ahead of fourth-place Florida Atlantic, and 30 ahead of fifth-place Tampa.
The second, and final, round gets underway Sunday morning at 8 a.m.