POOLER, Ga. – The way top-ranked Rollins College played on Sunday, it would have been nearly impossible to match the Tars for first place on the first day of the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament. That being said, a lot of other teams had a pretty good showing too, and Florida Southern was among them. The Moccasins got eagles from freshman Abbey Williams and senior Emily Rymer, and saw Rymer and sophomore Britta Bernth turn in the their top scores of the day as FSC finished round one in fourth place.
Rollins set a South Region Tournament record with a four-under par 284, becoming the first team to ever break par in a single round. Only once before (Nova Southeastern in 2010) had a team even shot even-par, and Florida Southern had come close to that in 2011 with a +1. The Tars counted a pair of 70's on Sunday from Annie Dulman and Lexie Toth, while Madison Lellyo and Paige Lyle each carded a 72. That gave Rollins a 13-shot lead over 2nd-place and 3rd-ranked Florida Tech, which had a team score of 297.
Saint Leo (ranked #12) was in third place with a 300, and Florida Southern (ranked #15) was fourth with a 302. The top three teams will move on to the Division II National Finals, and all nine teams in the South Region Tournament remain in the hunt, with ninth-place Flagler still only eight shots out of an advancing position with two rounds remaining.
The Moccasins were in the first wave of teams to tee off Sunday morning at Savannah Quarters Country Club, but the four individual qualifiers were already setting a tough pace. Three of them shot a one-over par 73, and the fourth had a 74 with nothing worse than a bogey for any of them. The Mocs then followed suit with Williams, Rymer, and junior Colleen Panosian all making the turn at +1 or better, and Bernth playing the first nine at three-over. The best was still to come though.
It started with Williams, the only freshman in the Florida Southern lineup. Leading off for the Moccasins, and playing in her first NCAA Tournament, she parred her first five holes. Even on No. 6, when she had to settle for a bogey, Williams hit a strong shot out of a bunker to minimize the damage. She was even more impressive on the par-four No. 8 when she nearly eagled that hole with an 80-yard shot that hit the flag only to take an unfortunate bounce off the stick and roll backwards for a longer putt.
Though she had to settle for par on that hole, Williams got her birdie on the par-four No. 9 with a curling left to right putt that put her at one-over halfway through the round. And after barely missing an eagle on No. 8, Williams ended up getting one on the second longest hole on the course, the par-five No. 13 at 494 yards. She hit the scoring shot from 120 yards out and went on to finish the round with a 77.
The Mocs weren't finished with long-range shots either. Rymer capped the day for Florida Southern by dropping one in the cup from 131 yards on the par-four No. 18 in front of a large group of on-lookers at the clubhouse. That helped off-set a triple-bogey on 16 that had dropped her to three-over at that point. The eagle on 18, along with four birdies earlier in the day gave Rymer a team-best 73, and put her in a tie for 10th place in the player standings.
In between their first golfer (Williams) and last (Rymer), the Moccasins got a 75 from Bernth, a 77 from Panosian, and an 84 from junior Kit Creighton that wasn't counted for the team score. All of them had some impressive moments, and Panosian chipped her way out of trouble time and time again, putting on a virtual clinic. When her tee shot on No. 12 landed in a bunker to the left and below the green, she came out strong and nearly birdied the hole. On 16, she chipped in from the back of the green before hitting a four-foot shot for par, then connected on an even more difficult sequence on 18, again coming from behind the green and going up the slope to chip within two feet of the cup.
Bernth, meanwhile, was playing in the group behind Panosian and put together a round that could be called steady, but was probably better than that. After a bogey on 2 and a double on 3, Bernth settled down and was even-par over the final 15 holes. That included birdies on 10 and 17 that helped Florida Southern close the gap on third-place Saint Leo. Her playing partner from the Lions went one-over on those same two holes, a 3-stroke difference that showed up on the scoreboard at the end of the day.
Though Florida Southern still trailed Saint Leo by two shots, it was one ahead of fourth-place Lynn, which had to count an 86 while playing with just four golfers. The Moccasins are also just three shots ahead of 6th-place West Florida.
Even though Lynn is in fourth place after one round, the Knights do have the individual leader in Samantha Barber. Shooting a three-under par 69, Barber is just one stroke ahead of four other golfers, including Dulman and Toth from Rollins. Saint Leo's Marie Coors, who tied for medalist honors at last year's South Region Tournament, also broke par on Sunday with a 71, putting her in sixth place. The sophomore had a tournament-high seven birdies, two more than Barber.
The six golfers with under-par rounds are another new tournament record.
The second round at Savannah Quarters Country Club gets underway Monday morning at 8:30. The Moccasins will go off in the second wave of teams beginning at 9:40.