LAKELAND – Frost in the early morning forced the golfers into a later start than planned in the first round of the 2016 Matlock Collegiate Classic and it ended up driving many of them straight into an unforgiving wind later in round two. Regardless of how the weather played into Monday's action, Florida Southern sophomore Jimmy Jones fought through it all and grabbed the early lead with a five-under par 67 before ending the day at -1 and tied for fourth. That was also the same position the #5-ranked Moccasins were in after #2 Saint Leo took sole possession of first.
The tournament was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. Monday, but with the temperature sitting at 36 degrees and frost on the course, that start time was pushed back to 9:30. That gave the field of 75 golfers representing 15 teams a little over two hours before the wind picked up and made play a little more challenging. Nevertheless, 12 of those golfers still broke par in the first round, with Saint Leo and #6-ranked Barry each accounting for three. Jones was the only Moccasin who was under par in either round, though sophomore John Coultas had an opening-round 72.
Perhaps as a testament to the strength of the teams playing in the Matlock, there were still seven golfers who broke par in the second round even under the less-than-ideal conditions. Even so, that was still the fewest for a Matlock round in eight years, which also marked the last time the second-round team leader had a total score over par.
This year it's Saint Leo with a 577, which puts the Lions at one-over going into Tuesday's finale. The Lions saw their score drop from a 283 to a 294, but it was still enough to give them a 2-shot advantage over #3 Nova Southeastern (287-292 = 579), and a 3-shot lead over Barry (283-297 = 580). The Buccaneers were tied with the Lions halfway through the day but were forced to count a 78 in round two.
Like nearly every other team in the tournament, Florida Southern saw its score fall too, going from a 286 to a 302, putting the Moccasins in a tie for fourth with #4 West Florida. That leaves the Moccasins 11 shots off the pace currently set by Saint Leo, which has never finished higher than sixth in its previous four appearances in the Matlock.
What Saint Leo has this year is one of only two golfers so far who was under par in each of Monday's rounds. Liam Ainsworth had a pair of 70's by either making birdie or par on 33 of his 36 holes. He's currently tied with the other golfer to break par in both rounds, Hunter O'Mahony of Nova Southeastern. O'Mahony had a 71 and 69, putting him at four-under par 140 as well. They have a 2-stroke lead over Mario Beltran of Barry, who had rounds of 72 and 70.
Jones fell into a fourth-place tie when he shot a second-round 76, leaving him at one-under par 143 and deadlocked with Priyanshu Singh of Nova Southeastern. Jones' score was affected by a 2-stroke penalty though for playing the wrong ball on No. 12. However, Jones bounced back to finish the day with back-to-back birdies, and without them, the Mocs would have been in sixth.
The weather seemed to have little effect on Jones overall. He started his day by shooting a 34 on the front nine and a 33 on the back. His 67 included seven birdies, which tied him for the first-round lead with Joey Savoie of Saint Leo and was one more than Coultas and Barry's Niclas Weiland had. As well as Jones was playing though, he still spent most of the morning chasing Hunter O'Mahony and Richard Mansell of Nova Southeastern. Mansell made the turn with a 31 but had a 40 on the back nine, and O'Mahony had a 33 on the front and 38 on the back.
There were also eight eagles in the first round, but Nova Southeastern was the only team with more than one. Mansell had one of those on the par-5 No. 2 hole, and Singh had the other on the 565-yard, par-5 No. 17. That was one of four eagles recorded on that hole, equaling the total number over the rest of the course. The second round saw three more golfers eagle No. 17.
Saint Leo, Barry and Florida Southern all had one of the three players who shot in the 60's in the first round. Jones had the 67 for the Moccasins, Savoie had a 68 for Saint Leo, and Nico Cavero turned in a 69 for Barry. The Lions and Buccaneers were able to pull ahead of the Moccasins though with two additional players on each team breaking par. That gave them first-round scores of 283, while Florida Southern had a 286.
The Moccasins counted Jones' 67, Coultas' 72, and a 73 and 74 respectively from the brother combination of freshman Michael VanDerLaan and sophomore John VanDerLaan. The 73 was a new career-best single-round score for Michael, who was two-under before conditions took their toll over his final five holes. John was also two-under through the first nine holes.
Florida Southern's fifth golfer was freshman Palmer Lovell who shot a 75 in his first collegiate tournament.
It was Coultas and John VanDerLaan who led the Moccasins in round two, as each of them shot a 75. Jones and Lovell had the other counting scores with a pair of 76's. Michael VanDerLaan had an 82.
Jones, who was tied for fourth with his 143 (-1), was one of only five golfers in the tournament at the end of the day who were still under par, with three others even. Coultas was tied for 16th with a 147 (+3), and John VanDerLaan was tied for 26th with a 149 (+5). Lovell was tied for 35th with a 151 (+7), and Michael VanDerLaan was tied for 53rd with a 155 (+11).
The final round is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday at Lone Palm Golf Club.