LAKELAND, FLA. – Lynn University had a 10-shot lead over West Florida and Barry when the final round of the 2019 Matlock Collegiate Classic began, and a little over halfway through the day that lead was gone. The 2nd-ranked Knights, however, had enough time left to re-group down the stretch and pull ahead one more time for a two-shot win over top-ranked Barry to claim their second tournament title in a row, and their second all-time at the Matlock.
The defending national champions were nine-under-par through two rounds and maintained that score with a 288 in round three, but Barry had a 280 that was the best for any team throughout the tournament, and 5th-ranked West Florida shot a 281. That left the Buccaneers at -7 overall, and the Argonauts at -6. They were the only three teams to break par after nine did so last year, including six that were at -10 or better. The two-shot margin was the closest at the Matlock since Florida Tech won by a single shot over three teams in 2012.
Florida Southern, which is ranked No. 6, and Columbus State, which is among those receiving votes in the top-25 poll, tied for fourth at +11. They had nearly identical scores all the way through. Both teams had a 289 in the opening round before the Cougars out-shot the Mocs by one in round two. Tuesday, it was the Moccasins with a one-shot advantage over the Cougars, 295-296. They finished just two shots ahead of No. 18 Cal State-Monterey Bay, and four in front of No. 13 Limestone.
The Moccasins also finished ahead of No. 2 Florida Tech (10th place), No. 3 Saint Leo (11th place), No. 10 Nova Southeastern (8th place), and No. 18 Rollins (13th place).
Though Barry finished second as a team, the Bucs did have the individual champion in Jorge Garcia, who tied the single-round scoring record with an eight-under par 64 Tuesday. He jumped ahead of three players in the final round to finish at -12, with Florida Southern freshman Max Coutsolioutsos coming in second, five shots behind him. Coutsolioutsos had been tied with Lynn's Jorge Vilar for the lead when the day began, and had a 73 to secure second place and his first career top-ten finish. His seven-under-par 209 put him one stroke ahead of Vilar, who tied for third with Barry's Niclas Weiland and Columbus State's Jordan Doull. They were five of the 10 players who broke par after 27 accomplished that last year.
Senior Christian Anderson matched Coutsolioutsos with a 73 and tied for 21st with a 221 (+7). Junior Chase Ibbotson shot a 74 and tied for 30th with a 223 (+7), and senior Michael VanDerLaan added a 75 to Tuesday's team score and tied for 44th with a 228 (+12). Freshman Seth Wright had a final-round 82 and tied for 54th with a 230 (+14).
The largest deficit any team has ever come back from to win the Matlock when it trailed going into the final round is 10 shots, by North Florida in 1998. Barry had a chance to match that Tuesday, and West Florida nearly surpassed it, but Lynn had just enough to start the spring the way it ended the fall, by coming from behind in the closing stages for a win over the Buccaneers. The Knights did that at the Otter Invitational hosted by Cal State-Monterey Bay to finish eight shots ahead of the Bucs, with West Florida third in that one too, and Florida Southern fifth.
Lynn's top players Tuesday were its fourth and fifth golfers in the tournament, Toto Gana and Tyrone Clarke, who shot a 70 and 71 respectively to finish with a 219 overall. The Knights also got a 73 from Carlos Bustos and Villar's 74, while Agustin Errazuriz, who was tied for sixth individually at the start of the day, shot a 77.
Barry made its run behind Garcia's 64 and Weiland's 69, but the Bucs also had to count a 77, and three of their counters either had a bogey or double-bogey on one of their final two holes. Meanwhile, Lynn's Gana and Bustos each birdied their last hole of the tournament, and Villar birdied two of his final three.
Garcia did tie the tournament scoring record though, which had been accomplished three previous times. Florida Southern's Tim Crouch and John VanDerLaan did it in 2013 and '17 respectively, and Barry's Adam Svensson did it in 2014. Garcia had nine birdies Tuesday and made the turn at -5 after starting on No. 1 and No. 2 with back-to-back birdies. He added four more on 5, 6, 7, and 9. His teammate Tyler Bakich nearly matched him with eight birdies, but also had two double-bogeys.
Florida Southern's birdie leader on Tuesday was VanDerLaan with five, while Anderson and Coutsolioutsos each had three, and all three of them had one on the par-5 No. 11. The tournament leader though was Saint Leo's Alberto Castagnara with 16, one more than Garcia had overall. Coutsolioutsos had 14 for Florida Southern.
Anderson was the tournament leader with 43 pars, and only Garcia and Matt Hedges of CSU-Monterey Bay had more holes with a par or birdie. Coutsolioutsos and Villar equaled Anderson's total with 47.
Florida Southern will travel to South Carolina next week for the Newberry Invitational hosted by Newberry College at Kiawah Island on Monday and Tuesday, February 18-19.