DENVER - Florida Southern began play here Tuesday morning in the 2016 NCAA Division II National Championships by firing a six-under par 282 in rainy and cold conditions to stand in a tie for second place out of 20 teams following the first round of action at the Green Valley Ranch Golf Club.
This year's Division II Men's Golf Championships is being held in conjunction with the 2016 NCAA Division II Spring Sports Championship Festival as champions will be crowned in Denver this week in softball, women's lacrosse, men's and women's golf and men's and women's tennis.
The Moccasins, who are making its NCAA record 37th appearance all-time in the NCAA D-II National Championships, teed off in the morning wave with 12 other teams and their score of 282 was tied for second best among the teams that opened play in the morning tee groupings. FSC is tied with No. 2 ranked Chico State, who also fired a 6-under 282 in the opening round.
All of the teams are looking up at No. 3 ranked Saint Leo, who carded an opening round score of 10-under par 278 to hold the first round lead by four shots over both FSC and Chico State. SLU, FSC and Chico State were the only teams that shot under par as a team on Tuesday.
Sitting behind Saint Leo, Florida Southern and Chico State is sixth-ranked Barry, who played in the afternoon tee groupings. Barry fired an even-par 288 to sit in fourth place. Central Oklahoma and Wilmington (Del.), who each played in the afternoon, both shot 1-over par 289's to sit in a tie for fifth place.
Oklahoma Christian fired a 2-over 290 to sit in a seventh place, while top-ranked Lynn fired a 3-over 291 on Tuesday to sit in eighth place after the first round. In fact, 13 teams are within 19 shots of first round leader Saint Leo.
In fact, seven of the top 13 teams atop the leaderboard after Tuesday's first round teed off in the morning. The other six teams on the leaderboard played during the afternoon session.
The top eight teams in the team standings following Thursday's third and final round of stoke play will advance to compete in a seeded match/medal play format, which will run the final two days of the tournament (Friday-Saturday) to determine the Division II team national champion.
Leading the wey for the Mocs in Tuesday's opening round was sophomore All-American John VanDerLaan (Southbury, Conn.). VanDerLaan shot a 4-under 68 in the opening round to sit in a tie for third place with Chico State's Matt Hutchins. VanDerLaan, who is ranked 10th in the latest Golfstat Division II player rankings, opened by shooting a 2-under 34 on the front nine, before carding an 2-under 34 on the back nine of the 7,327-yard Green Valley Ranch course. On the day, VanDerLaan finished with five birdies, a bogey and 12 pars on his scorecard. VanDerLaan, who led all players in scoring on par 4 holes as he averaged 3.70, was one of 25 players that shot under par in Tuesday's opening round and one of 12 players that teed off in the morning.
Saint Leo's Hugo Bernard turned in the best round of the day as he carded a 7-under 65 to hold a two shot lead over Wilmington's Freddy Braun, who carded a 5-under 67 to sit in second place. VanDerLaan and Hutchins are three shots behind Bernard, while seven players each shot 3-under par 69's to sit tied for fifth after the opening round.
The Mocs finished the first round with 59 pars and was tied for fifth in birdies with 15 with Barry, Oklahoma Christian and Southeastern Oklahoma State. FSC also played the course's four par-5 holes at 5-under as they averaged 4.75 in the opening round of those par-5 holes.
In addition to VanDerLaan, sophomore John Coultas (Valrico, Fla.), who is a finalist for the 2016 Division II Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year Award presented by Barbasol, fired a 2-under 70 to sit in a tie for 12th place after Tuesday's opening round. Coultas, who is the No. 2 ranked golfer in the latest Golfstat Division II player rankings, shot a 1-under 35 on the front nine and then fired a 1-under 35 on the back nine. For the round, Coultas recorded three birdies, one bogey and 14 pars on his scorecard.
The third and fourth counters for the Mocs on Tuesday were sophomore Jimmy Jones (Tampa, Fla.) and freshman Christian Anderson (Ocala, Fla.). Both Jones and Anderson carded opening round scores of even-par 72 to sit in a tie for 26th place.
Jones, who broke his driver on the opening tee shot, began the day with a double-bogey 6 on the first hole thanks to his errant tee shot that hooked into the hazard, but he would rebound from that disaster on No. 1 and shoot 2-under par over the next 16 holes, including birding four of his next 11 holes. Jones, though, would close his round with back-to-back bogeys on the 17th and 18th holes to finish at even-par for the day. For the round, Jones had four birdies, two bogeys, a double bogey and 11 pars on his scorecard.
Anderson, though, got off to a strong start as after bogeying the first hole, he recorded back-to-back birdies on the second and third holes. After a par on No. 4, Anderson would bogey No. 5, but then birdied No. 6. He would close the front nine with a 1-under 35 and then had eight pars and a bogey on the par-5 No. 16 hole on the back nine to finish the day with his even-par 72. For the round, Anderson had three birdies, three bogeys and 12 pars on his scorecard.
The final competitor for the Mocs on Tuesday was freshman Michael VanDerLaan (Southbury, Conn.) as he fired an 8-over 80 in the opening round to sit in a tie for 96th place. He opened the round by shooting a 2-over 38 on the front nine, before shooting a 6-over 42 on the back nine. VanDerLaan, who is playing in his first tournament for the Mocs since the Matlock Collegiate Classic in early February, had 10 pars and eight bogeys on his opening round scorecard.
The second round of the national finals gets underway Tuesday afternoon for the Mocs at 2:55 p.m. Eastern. The Mocs will again play with Southern New Hampshire (13th, +9) and Southeastern Oklahoma State (T-14th, +10) as they will all tee off from the 10th tee. The No. 1 golfers are scheduled to tee off at 3:39 p.m. Eastern.
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