Green High School senior has second straight high finish at the 10th annual Junior Invitational in Graniteville, S.C.

The back nine at Sage Valley Golf Club is known for producing high scores and frustrated golfers.

That wasn’t the case for much of the day for Green senior golfer Maxwell Moldovan on Saturday morning at the 10th annual Junior Invitational in Graniteville, S.C.

Moldovan held his own under difficult circumstances, but still saw his 2-stroke lead on the rest of the field slowly slip away over the final nine holes and finished tied for third.

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"I think you can look at the scorecard and see what happened on 17, but that didn’t play as much as a role as you would think," Moldovan said. "I saw a couple guys were headed for an 8- or 9-under round on the front. I had a bogey at 11 and that was really the point I felt like I was falling behind. I know they had a bunch of easy holes coming up and I had a bunch of difficult ones."

None more difficult than No. 17. If No. 11 started Moldovan’s slide, 17 finished it. A double-bogey put Moldovan out of contention going into the last hole.

"I actually had a shot for birdie on that one," Moldovan said of 17. "I ended up 4-putting and that’s how I ended up with the double-bogey. It wasn’t necessarily anything difficult with the hole. I just didn’t putt well today. I hit eight out of the nine greens in regulation and struggled with the short game. That’s golf some days."

Moldovan rallied for a par on 18, but ended up with a 3-over 39 on the day and tied for third in the tournament with a three-round total of 210. Jackson Van Paris shot a 32 on the easier front nine to win the tournament with a score of 207.

"I’m OK," Moldovan said. "It’s hard because I had high expectations for this tournament. I took second last year and that finish left a bad taste in my mouth for a couple months. I thought I had a good grip on the tournament last night so it’s a little disappointing. Like I said when I finished second at state this year though, I believe everything happens for a reason. I just need to find out what that is."

Moldovan’s effort can’t be faulted. Not with the myriad distractions caused by the coronavirus sweeping the country. Certainly not in a field that featured the top 34 players on the Golfweek Junior Boys Rankings.

"It was an awesome week," Moldovan said. "The course is unbelievable. I can’t say enough good things about how they run this tournament. The only thing I would say I’m disappointed in is that it is my last year to participate in it. I got to play it twice and I came away with two top three finishes, though."

This tournament will be hard to forget because of the pall the coronavirus is casting over the world. Moldovan was tested for the virus the moment he arrived and saw organizers try to turn the original three-day event into a two-day event Friday morning at 10 a.m. with an ambitious plan to play two full rounds of 36 holes Friday. That fell through after 27 holes and the final nine holes were played Saturday morning.

In the end, organizers managed to get the tournament in at a time when even the PGA is waving off tournaments.

"They did as good a job as you could do dealing with those circumstances," Moldovan said. "Had they canceled the event after one day with no winner, that would have stunk. I’m glad they found a way to get the whole thing in."

Moldovan is ranked third nationally in the Golfweek Junior Rankings (68.49) but the question remains when he will be able to golf in a tournament again. It is likely that Saturday may be the final official round Moldovan plays for a while.

"I was scheduled to play in the Thunderbird Junior Classic in Arizona over Easter, but that was just canceled," Moldovan said. "I was supposed to play in the Terra Cotta Invitational the weekend after that in Naples, Fla., but that is also sounding like it is going to be postponed. My next scheduled tournament after that isn’t until June so we’re just going to have to wait and see how it all plays out. I don’t think anybody knows right now."

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