GREEN The question is at once easy and weighty for Green junior golfer Maxwell Moldovan: How does it feel to be on a list that includes Hall of Famer Jack Nicklaus and 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis?
Moldovan gets that question now because late last month, he rallied to win his second Division I individual boys golf state championship, firing a second-round 76 to tie for first. Competing as an individual, Moldovan followed up a 2017 state title with a consistent postseason that led him to the top of the podium again.
"It means a lot to me … it’s obviously a very cool thing to be on a list with Jack Nicklaus and Ben Curtis (as multi-time state champions)," Moldovan said.
This time around, Moldovan opened well and was the right combination of fast-starting and consistent over the course of two days at the OSU Golf Club Scarlet Course. His opening-round 73 put him one shot off the lead held by Oscar Zimmerman of Cincinnati St. Xavier and when Zimmerman faded with an 80 on the second day, Moldovan fired a 76 to leave him in a tie for medalist honors with Dublin Jerome golfer Jackson Chandler. The pair each shot 149, one shot ahead of Vandalia Butler golfer Austin Greaser.
One of Moldovan’s Federal League rivals, Christian Tomak of Jackson, was eighth to give the league a pair of top-10 finishers.
"Overall, I thought I played pretty well. The last six or seven holes were not what I had planned, but I got it done and it was nice being able to defend my title successfully," Moldovan said. "It was definitely harder to win the first one because that time, I came into second round five shots behind and this time I was only one shot behind."
Having a target on his back as the defending state champion didn’t play a big role for Moldovan and in a sense, golf leads itself well to that approach. It’s one of the sports where opponents don’t play defense on one another and have no tangible way of affecting how well their opponent plays.
All they can do is play their best and try to put as much pressure as possible on their rivals to keep pace. Moldovan, who plays in many amateur tournaments as an individual during the year, admitted that he doesn’t mind being solo as opposed to playing in matches with his team. Golf is largely an individual sport, save for college and high school matches and a few select professional events such as the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
"I’m more used to individual stuff … it’s pretty much all I play in all year except for varsity matches," Moldovan said. "I like playing as individual even though it is cool having fun playing with your friends. My teammates still came down and supported me."
The final round, in which Moldovan was tied for fourth in scoring for the day, came down to a lesson he’s learned well during his playing career: greens and fairways.
Keeping it on the short stuff off the tee and being efficient and consistent on the greens are two tenets of championship golf and although the last six holes weren’t what he wanted, Moldovan did enough to stay in the lead and win a second title in a row.
He credits a large chunk of his success to his father, John Moldovan, a golf teacher with plenty of playing experience and an indoor facility where he gives lessons. The facility is a short drive from the family’s home and after school - and once his dad is done with lessons for the day - Moldovan heads over to work on his game.
"I take it week by week … whatever I feel like my game needs work on every day and every week, that’s what I do," Moldovan said. "A lot of times, I practice putting and he helps me out. Sometimes I’ll ask him for the keys so I can go work on some things, but usually it’s little bit of both, working on my own and then me and him working together. I like it a lot … he has a lot of experience in the game of golf."
Now that he has a second state title in the bank, it’s fair to say Moldovan will have a lot of pressure to repeat - or then again, maybe not. With a pair of titles under his belt, he’s etched his name in the history books regardless of how his senior season turns out.
By then, he likely will have added plenty more rounds of tournament play to his resume, along with many hours of practice time working with his dad, trying to find a way to shave an extra shot or two off his scoring average.
Reach Andy at 330-58-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB