COLUMBUS, GA – Behind a pair of 69s by Chase Ibbotson and Michael VanDerLaan, 4th-ranked Florida Southern climbed steadily up the standings in the second half of Monday's action at the Cougar Invitational. When all the cards were in, the Moccasins had the best score of the round with a 283 (-1) and ended day one of the tournament tied for fourth out of 17 teams, and only five shots behind first-place Valdosta State.
With two rounds being played, Florida Southern was 11th halfway through the day with a first-round score of 290 (+6) on the par-71 course at the Country Club of Columbus, though still just eight shots behind the early leader, No. 16 Carson-Newman. Eight of the teams participating are in the GCAA national poll, and six others are receiving votes, and the gap between those 14 teams top to bottom was only 12 shots at the end of round one. The remaining three schools were a little further back and fell significantly off the pace in the afternoon.
Florida Southern went in the other direction, climbing as high as third at one point, and by the time only a few holes were left to play, the Moccasins were part of a 10-team pack that had separated itself from the rest of the field. When the Moccasins walked off the course at the end of the day with a handful of other teams still to finish, they were tied with No. 8 Limestone for fifth place. They moved up one more spot when Montevallo finished its round and dropped behind Florida Southern and Limestone.
Florida Southern's 283 was one of only three under-par rounds by any team in either round Monday, and it was the only such score in round two. Carson-Newman had a 282 in the first round and Valdosta State was one shot behind the Eagles with a 283, but the Blazers out-shot them by two strokes in the afternoon to go on top by one at the end of the day. The Blazers were at even-par overall, Carson-Newman was at +1, and No. 5 Florida Tech was third at +2. That put Florida Southern and Limestone tied for fourth at +5, followed by Montevallo and No. 24 Lee tied for sixth at +8.
VanDerLaan had five birdies in the second round for his two-under par 69, with four of them coming on his final seven holes. That left him at -2 for the day and tied for seventh in the player standings, three strokes behind Brady Carman of Montevallo.
Ibbotson had four birdies in the second round and followed a similar path to VanDerLaan with three of them coming on his last five holes of the day. They were a combined six-under on the back nine, carrying Florida Southern up the standings. Ibbotson's two-round total of even-par 142 has him tied for 17th overall, five strokes off the pace set by Carman.
Christian Anderson birdied three holes to play round two at +1, and Max Coutsolioutsos, who parred 16 of 18 holes in the round was the Mocs' fourth counter with a two-over par 73. They are tied for 28th and 36th respectively with totals scores of 145 and 146. Jacob Penny turned in a 79 as Florida Southern's fifth golfer and is tied for 72nd with a 152.
In Monday's first round, all five Moccasins nearly had matching scores. Anderson, Coutsolioutsos, Ibbotson, and Penny all had a two-over par 73 and VanDerLaan was the team leader with an even-par 71. He got that score after recording an eagle on the par-5 No. 17 before going par, birdie, and par over his final three holes in the shotgun start that had him teeing off on No. 3.
Ibbotson's morning round saw him lead the team with five birdies, though a five-hole stretch from 11-15 where he went four-over left him at +2 halfway through the day. Both he and Penny, who started on hole one, made the first-round turn at -1. Coutsolioutsos, who started one hole ahead of them, put together the Mocs' best run of holes in the opening round, with 11 consecutive pars or birdies from eight through 18. Anderson had a similar run on the back nine before ending on No. 1, posting six pars and three birdies during that 10-hole stretch.
The final round is Tuesday morning at the Country Club of Columbus.