Maxwell Moldovan started with a flawless 68 (Golfweek photo)
We've been watching Maxwell Moldovan
(Uniontown, Ohio) since his junior golf days.
The rising star aged out of his junior career in style last month in North Carolina, birdieing his final five holes to take the clubhouse lead at the AJGA Invitational, the last junior event of his career. He ended up finishing 2 shots behind eventual winner David Ford, but what a way to "graduate" to amateur and collegiate golf.
That was on June 12, when he told us "I'm excited about the summer of amateur events" - and with since he is exempt by way of making the round-of-64 at last year's U.S. Amateur, that journey will continue to Bandon Dunes in late August.
But for now, the big prize is the endurance test known as the Western Amateur, just four years "younger" (1899) than the U.S. and British Amateurs which were founded in 1895.
Today at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indianapolis, Moldovan avoided a bogey; not an easy task on such a "big" course that has hosted two World Golf Championships in the last 10 years.
Going out with nine straight pars, Moldovan was loving the odd numbers on the back nine, recording birdies on Nos. 11, 13, and 15. A par on No. 17 stopped the symmetry, but not the momentum -- the Ohio State freshman-to-be birdied the last to post 32 on the back nine and a 4-under 68 on the round.
"I was really happy with how I played today," Moldovan told AmateurGolf.com. "The course is a great test. It’s long, it’s tight off the tee, and the greens are tough."
The key stretch for Moldovan was a clutch seven-footer for par on the 12th, followed by a chip-in birdie on 13. "That kept the momentum for the closing stretch, which is really good at Crooked Stick," said Moldovan. "I was able to make some good birdie putts today and lots of good chips to give myself tap-in pars."
Also posting 68 -- Connor Creasy of Abington, Virginia. The Georgia Bulldog had five birdies and just a single bogey on No. 10.
The pair are joined at the top of the leaderboard by University of Florida commit Joseph Pagdin of England, University of Louisville senior Mattias Schmid of Germany, and Clemson senior Turk Pettit.
Among the large group of ten players one shot back at 3 under are World No. 4 Davis Thompson of the University of Georgia and William Mouw, who chose not to defend his California Amateur title in favor of playing in the Western Amateur.
Another nine players are at 2 under, including the reigning U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree. In all, an eye-popping 40 players are within three shots of the lead.
Defending champ Garrett Rank posted a disappointing 74 and will have to get some momentum going on Wednesday if he is to contend for the title as the field gets whittled down to 44 after 36-holes and those players then play an additional 36 to determine the "sweet-16."
Also in the group at 74 who we predicted would do well here are Quade Cummins of Oklahoma and McClure Meissner of SMU, recent winner of the Southern Amateur at Maridoe.
Playing all of that recent golf -- Cummins just finished 3rd and 4th at the Southern Amateur and Sunnehanna in back to back weeks -- can wear on a person, but don't be surprised to see any of those three players post a low number on Wednesday in an attempt to move on.
Interestingly, Moldovan also played the last two "majors" but finished outside of the top-30 in both events.
ABOUT THE Western Amateur
Invitational event, and the most important
tournament in American amateur golf outside of the
U.S. Amateur. With a grueling schedule, it's quite
hardest amateur tournament to win.
156 invited players come from across the
globe to play one of the toughest formats in
amateur golf. The tournament starts with 18
holes of stroke play on Tuesday and
Wednesday after which the field is cut to the
low 44 scores and ties. Thursday it's a long
day of 36 holes of stroke play to determine
the “Sweet Sixteen” who compete at Match
Play on Friday and Saturday (two matches
each day if you're going to the finals) to
decide the champion.
View Complete Tournament Information