KEY BISCAYNE – Six of the top-10 ranked women's golf teams in the country are competing in the 2016 Sunshine State Conference Championships at Crandon Golf, and it seems a little unusual that Florida Southern is not of those six. The Moccasins came into the tournament at #27, still making them one of the nation's best Division II teams, and on Sunday they showed what they're capable of doing. With the first of three rounds now complete, Florida Southern is tied for second place in the standings and only three shots behind 2nd-ranked Florida Tech.
The Moccasins posted a team score of 314, putting them in a tie with #9 Saint Leo. With both schools three shots behind the Panthers (311), they are also two shots ahead of fourth-place and #5-ranked Nova Southeastern (316), with #1 Rollins and #3 Barry (318) four shots behind the Moccasins and Lions. That leaves the top six teams in the SSC Tournament separated by only seven shots. Lynn, which is ranked #7 in the country, is in seventh place, but trails first-place Florida Tech by 20. Tampa and Eckerd are a distant eighth and ninth respectively.
Leading the Moccasins on day one of the SSC Championships were sophomore Abbey Williams with a 76, and junior Britta Bernth with a 77. The 76 by Williams was enough to put her in a 4-way tie for first with Saint Leo's Amanda Jakobsson and Marie Coors, and Florida Tech's Paola Ortiz. Bernth was tied for fifth with another Florida Tech golfer, Felicia Leftinger.
Playing in the first groups with Tampa and Eckerd, Florida Southern finished its round shortly before 2:30 in sixth place with a 7-shot lead over Lynn at that point. The Moccasins were also only six shots out of third with all of the remaining six teams on the course having made the turn. By the time every team was through at least 12 holes, the Moccasins were only five shots out of first, and Williams and Bernth were into the top-10 on the individual leaderboard.
After Saint Leo, Nova Southeastern and Lynn finished their respective rounds about an hour later, the Moccasins were in even better shape. With their lead over Lynn now up to 17 shots, a 2-shot advantage over Nova Southeastern and the same score as Saint Leo, the Mocs knew they would end the day no worse than fourth, and as it turned out they did much better than that.
The first golfer to finish for Florida Southern was Bernth, and the Moccasins had to be pleased with a 77 from the #5 golfer in their lineup. Bernth was two-over for her final 13 holes and had nothing worse than a bogey for the entire round, putting her in a tie for fifth place at the end of the day.
Williams was the next Moccasin to the finish line and came across with a 76 that proved to be their best score of the day. After starting with bogeys on two of her first three holes, Williams was even for the next 12 before she bogeyed two of her final three. Like Bernth before her though, a bogey was the worst thing Williams had all day, something none of the other three co-leaders accomplished.
Creighton started and ended her round with birdies, and McKew birdied back-to-back holes on 6 and 7 coming down the stretch, helping her match Williams with a one-over 37 for the second half of the opening round. Creighton and McKew accounted for four of the team's five birdies in the round, and though five other teams had at between seven and 12, the Mocs made up the difference by not making any major mistakes. On their 72 holes amongst their four counters, only three resulted in a double-bogey and none were worse than that, the fewest of any team in the tournament.
By comparison, first-place Florida Tech had five doubles and three triples. Saint Leo matched Florida Southern with three doubles, but also had a 10 on a par-five from one if its fourth counters. That hole was one of two which played as the most difficult Sunday, but Florida Southern's four counters played that one at one-over.
Florida Tech benefitted from 10 birdies to take its 3-shot lead over Florida Southern and Saint Leo, counting scores of 76, 77, 78, and 80.
The second round at Crandon Golf begins Monday morning at 8:30. Florida Southern will be in the final wave playing with Florida Tech and Saint Leo, with Panosian the first Moccasin to tee off at hole #1 at 10:00. The remaining players will follow her at nine-minute intervals.