The Florida Southern men's golf team opens play in the 2019 NCAA Division II National Championship Tournament on Monday in Daniels, West Virginia where the Moccasins are one of 20 teams competing for the title. Florida Southern has reached the finals for the 40th time, more than any other D-II team in the country, and has already won 13 national championships, which is also the most in Division II.
The tournament runs Monday through Friday at The Resort at Glade Springs and includes both a stroke play and medal play component. Stroke play is contested over the first three days with one round each day beginning at 7:30 a.m. Pairings and tee times for the first two rounds are pre-determined, and the third round is based on team scores up to that point. The top eight teams move on to medal play and will be seeded one through eight based on their finish in stroke play. Live scoring is available through Golfstat and daily coverage is provided through NCAA.com.
The quarterfinals are Thursday morning, beginning at 7:30, with the top seed playing against the eighth seed, the second seed facing the seventh, the third facing the sixth, and the fourth facing the fifth. Golfers will compete head-to-head based on lineup position determined prior to each round. Teams receive one point for each win by their individual golfers with a maximum of five points. The four winning teams Thursday morning will play again that same afternoon in the semifinals, and the national championship match is Friday at 9 a.m.
Seven of the 20 teams at the finals advanced from the loaded South/Southeast Super Regional where 8th-ranked Florida Southern finished in fourth place behind No. 2 Lynn, No. 3 West Florida, and No. 1 Barry. Those four are the highest ranked teams in the tournament. The remaining teams from the South/Southeast are South Carolina-Aiken, No. 10 Lincoln Memorial, and No. 17 Saint Leo.
Advancing from the Atlantic/East Region in order of finish are Southern New Hampshire, Bentley (MA), and Wilmington (DE). Advancing from the Central/Midwest in order are Lindenwood (MO), No. 16 Missouri-St. Louis, Ferris State (MI), No. 21 Arkansas Tech, Trevecca Nazarene (TN), and No. 24 Grand Valley State (MI). Representing the South Central/West in order are Dixie State, Cal-San Diego, No. 20 Cal State-Monterey Bay, and No. 13 Sonoma State.
Each super regional also sent two individual qualifiers who were not with one of the advancing teams, with Nova Southeastern's Juan Jose Guerra and Georgia Southwestern's Vincent Norman representing the South/Southeast.
This year's national field has eight teams returning from last year, and six of them are from the South/Southeast. USC-Aiken is the only team advancing from the South/Southeast that did not do so last year. Meanwhile, the only returning teams from the other super regionals are Missouri-St. Louis and Arkansas Tech from the Central/Midwest.
Florida Southern will play the first two rounds with Sonoma State and Arkansas Tech. They will tee off hole one in the earliest time slots Monday beginning at 7:30 a.m. On Tuesday, the Moccasins will begin their day at 12 p.m. and tee off on hole 10.
The Mountain East Conference is serving as the tournament host at The Resort at Glade Springs. The par-72 Cobb Course covers 7,114 yards with the holes ranging from the 549-yard No. 18 to the 200-yard No. 17. This is the second time the Division II National Championships have been played at The Resort at Glade Springs, but the first time in 2006, it was played as a par-70 course. The Moccasins finished sixth that year with USC-Aiken winning the national title by 12 shots over Columbus State with a score of +28. Greg Koch finished third individually for the Mocs with a two-over-par 282.
Florida Southern has not only made 40 trips to the national finals, it is also the only team in the country to have made at least six appearances in every decade since the 1970s. The only other teams with as many as 20 total appearances are Columbus State (GA) and Indiana (PA) with 32 apiece; Cal-Davis and Rollins with 23; and Cal State-Stanislaus with 21. None of those other five are playing in this year's national championship tournament, however, with Barry and West Florida the next closest teams in terms of national appearances with 13. Lynn is right behind them with 12.
Seven of the teams that advanced to the medal play portion of the tournament last year qualified for the finals again this year, including all four of the 2018 semifinalists. Those four teams (Florida Southern, West Florida, Barry, and Lynn) have advanced to medal play three years in a row, Florida Southern has been there four straight years, and Lynn is working on a six-year streak. Those four have also accounted for nearly half of the semifinal appearances since the NCAA went to a medal play format in 2011 (14-of-32).
Three schools are playing in the national finals for the first time: Bentley (MA), Trevecca Nazarene (TN), and Dixie State (UT). Four others are making only their second appearance: Lincoln Memorial (TN), Southern New Hampshire, Lindenwood (MO), and Cal-San Diego.
Making the trip to West Virginia this week with head coach Lee White are the same five who put Florida Southern in the national finals with their performance last week at Howey-In-The Hills: seniors Christian Anderson and Michael VanDerLaan, junior Chase Ibbotson, and freshmen Max Coutsolioutsos and Johnny Tucker. They represent a balanced lineup that is separated from top to bottom by less than one stroke per round on average. That's something not previously accomplished at Florida Southern since at least 1970. The smallest gap between one and five on record for the Moccasins is 1.37, which happened in 1981-82, and no other team in this year's national field is anywhere close to as balanced as Florida Southern. (Lynn is second with a 1.42 differential.)
Anderson and VanDerLaan are playing in their fourth national championship tournament, and Ibbotson is playing in his second. All three were key members of the 2017 national championship team in Kissimmee. Anderson and VanDerLaan finished in the top-20 during stroke play, and Ibbotson won two of his three individual matches. VanDerLaan went on to post another top-20 finish at the 2018 national tournament when the Moccasins advanced to the semifinals.
At this year's super regional tournament, Anderson was the Mocs' top performer with a seven-over-par 223 that had him tied for 18th place. Tucker tied for 28th with a 225 (+9) and had their best individual round with a 70 in round two. VanDerLaan tied for 39th with a 227, and his albatross on 14 in the final round helped propel the Mocs back into the top seven. Ibbotson and Coutsolioutsos tied for 46th with a 228 (+12), with Ibbotson tied for the team scoring lead in round one, and Coutsolioutsos a counter in all three rounds. The five Moccasins were separated by only five strokes in the final standings, the closest margin for any team in the field, and the fourth time this year they were all within six or less.
Overall this season, Coutsolioutsos is the team leader with a 73.77 stroke average, but VanDerLaan is right behind him at 73.89. VanDerLaan, however, has a slightly higher individual winning percentage and leads the team with 11 under-par or even-par rounds. In terms of total strokes, Coutsolioutsos has needed just four fewer than VanDerLaan over 35 rounds this season.
Anderson (74.43), Ibbotson (74.54), and Tucker (74.73) are all just as tight this season. Anderson also has a 74.40 career average in 141 rounds and was the team leader at the super regional, while Ibbotson was the team leader at the SSC Championships. Tucker is coming off his two best rounds since the Bobcat Invitational in mid-March, and his 144 in the second and third rounds at the super regional was only one shot behind individual champion Giovanni Manzoni over those same 36 holes.
Lynn is the defending national champion after defeating West Florida in last year's championship match, marking the seventh year in a row a school from the Sunshine State Conference has won the title. The streak began in 2012 with Nova Southeastern, was continued by Barry in 2013 and '14, Nova again in 2015, Saint Leo in 2016, and Florida Southern in 2017. Since medal play began in 2011, the championship match has featured two SSC teams on four occasions, and there have been five occasions in which at least three SSC teams have reached the semifinals.
Florida Southern has won 13 national championships in men's golf, which is more than twice the number won by the next team on the list (Columbus State has six), and its five runner-up finishes are second only to Columbus State's eight. They've placed in the top-five in 32 of their previous 39 trips to the National Finals, with Columbus State second on that list as well with 22.
Florida Southern has also produced a record nine individual national champions, including John VanDerLaan, who won last year with a tournament record -17.