John Moldovan likes to keep golf as simple as possible for his son, Maxwell.
When Maxwell was growing up, his father would focus on teaching the essentials of course management while they were out together — stay below the hole, “swing with ease into the breeze” — rather than monkeying too much with his mechanics.
And when John was asked what Maxwell did best during his two most recent amateur victories — the AJGA’s Polo Golf Junior Classic and Ohio Amateur Championship — he opted to keep that explanation straightforward, too: “Fairways and greens.”
For John, a golf teaching professional from Uniontown, Ohio, he has to balance being a dad and being a coach. It’s “not the easiest” combination, he said, as he watches Maxwell, a 17-year-old Ohio State commit, continually improve.
They’ve figured out a system that works, though, and it’s helped Maxwell get to this point, earning his first start at the U.S. Junior Amateur, which starts Monday at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio.
“If he asks me for advice, I give it to him,” John said. “I don’t, like, stuff it down his throat.”
“It’s definitely been a blessing to have my dad by my side whenever I need him,” Maxwell Moldovan said, the No. 6-ranked golfer in the AJGA standings. “If I’m struggling, he’s there. If I’m playing well, he’s there.”
As of late, Moldovan has been on a hot streak. On June 28, Moldovan won the final match play event of the Polo Golf Junior Classic at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J. He went 6-0 in match play, finishing the tournament off with a 3&2 win over Taehoon Song, who ranks No. 9 in the AJGA standings.
Moldovan then went and won the Ohio Amateur Championship two weeks later, shooting 7-under 277 and building plenty of momentum heading into the U.S. Junior Amateur. The USGA event runs from Monday to Saturday, with two rounds of stroke play followed by match play.
“The last few weeks have been really good, obviously,” Moldovan said. “But to get to tee it up in my first USGA event in my home state is going to be a really cool opportunity.”
At 6:55 on Monday morning, Moldovan teed off at Inverness Club, the first golfer of the day. He’ll have family and friends all week at the course to cheer him on, which started with the 3-over 74 he shot in his first round. He’s one of six Ohioans competing in the tournament.
For Moldovan, the chance to represent Ohio has significance. He had narrowed his list of possible colleges down to UNLV, Oklahoma State and Ohio State, before ultimately choosing the Buckeyes.
“There’s kind of a sense of pride if you stay home and you play in your home state,” Moldovan said. “The golf in Columbus, Ohio is second to none.”
Ohio State will be getting a golfer who has won back-to-back Ohio Division I high school championships for Green High School.
Moldovan’s been able to find that consistency largely through following the course management his father preached of when he was younger. He focuses on hitting the fairways with strong, controlled drives, a calling card of Moldovan’s game since he was a preteen.
“He’s always been really straight,” his father said. “And I thought when he gained clubhead speed and ball speed and got stronger, that it could go haywire. But it stayed really straight.”
On the night before the U.S. Junior Amateur began — in which Moldovan would play against the world’s top junior golfers, such as Karl Vilips, Akshay Bhatia and Ricky Castillo — Moldovan’s father thought for a moment what last-minute advice he’d offer his son, if any. Then he laughed and opted to keep things simple.
“Fairways and greens,” John Moldovan said once more.