CLEVELAND, TENN. – One day and one round into the NCAA Division II South Region Women's Golf Tournament, Florida Southern is pretty much where it needs to be in order to advance to nationals. In fact, the Moccasins spent more time in the lead Monday than anyone else, and at day's end were tied for fourth, only four shots behind first-place Florida Tech.
The top four teams from the regional tournament will move on to the national finals, but there are still two rounds remaining and the first through eighth place teams are separated by only 10 shots. At +10 (298), the 13th-ranked Moccasins are tied with No. 11 Limestone and sitting behind No. 5 Florida Tech at +6 (294), No. 17 Saint Leo at +7 (295), and No. 3 Nova Southeastern at +9 (297). The Moccasins and Saints are three shots ahead of No. 7 Lynn, five ahead of No. 12 Rollins, and six ahead of top-ranked Barry.
The Mocs were led by Tori Higgins and Shelby Lewis, who each shot a two-over-par 74 and are tied for seventh individually. Amanda Gartrell and Madi Wetzel are tied for 15th after shooting 75s, and Loren Perez is tied for 37th with a 77.
Starting on the back nine, Florida Southern was at -4 in the early going after Wetzel and Lewis were even before the halfway point of their rounds, and Higgins and Gartrell were each two-under. All four of the Moccasin counters made the turn at +1 or better, or roughly halfway through the day, the Mocs were at +2, holding a one-shot lead over Florida Tech and Anderson. At that point, Barry and Lynn were at +10, and Rollins was at +11, although the Buccaneers and Knights had started play on the front side of the course.
Florida Tech eventually caught the Moccasins after every team had completed 12 holes, and over the final six holes, the Panthers were +1 as a team and the Moccasins were +6. That moved the Panthers to the top of the standings, but still only one shot ahead of Saint Leo, and three ahead of Nova. Limestone also made its move during that time by also playing the final six holes at +1, leaving the top five teams in the tournament within four shots of first. Anderson went the other direction with a +10 over the final six holes and fell all the way from second to 11th.
On the individual leaderboard, Lewis earned her spot among the golfers tied for seventh by playing both the back nine and front nine at +1 with a team-high three birdies along the way. Higgins had two birdies and was -1 on the back and +3 on the front. Their 74s put them six shots behind Florida Tech's Lucy Eaton, who fired a four-under-par 68 that included the day's only eagle. It came on the par-4 No. 2, and Eaton's scorecard showed five birdies as well. Eaton turned at -4 and maintained that score with three of her birdies on the back nine, two of them following holes she bogeyed.
Three other golfers broke par in round one, with Limestone's Pilar Martinez and Saint Leo's Isabel Nesteus shooting 70s, and Saint Leo's Synne Lauritzen shooting a 71. Tied for fifth place were Helen Kreuzer of Lynn and Hannah Ahlander of Nova Southeastern with 73s, with Higgins and Lewis among the large group of golfers tied for seventh with 74s. Another of those is defending champion Tilda Larsson of Barry.
The most popular score of the day was a 75, which 12 of the 66 golfers hit, including Gartrell and Wetzel, who each had two birdies. Wetzel was one one-under for the final five holes.
The Mocs' best golfer the second half of the day, however, was Perez. The freshman played the front nine at even-par where she recorded both of her birdies.
Round two at Cleveland Country Club gets underway Tuesday morning at 8:30, and the Moccasins will begin play at 9:20.