U.S. JUNIOR AMATEUR
Moldovan Wins Battle of High School Teammates at Inverness July 17, 2019 | Toledo, Ohio By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Maxwell Moldovan had to get past high-school teammate Cade Breitenstine to advance to the Round of 32. (USGA/Darren Carroll)

U.S. Junior Amateur Home

A total of 3,496 players filed entries for the 72nd U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, only 156 of whom got to Inverness Club this week. Three pairs of high-school teammates were among the 156, and all six survived the 36-hole cut to reach match play. And on Wednesday afternoon, through the luck of the draw, two of those teammates squared off in the Round of 64.

“When I looked at the pairings last night, I was kind of excited,” said Maxwell Moldovan, 17, of Uniontown, Ohio, a rising senior at Green High School there. “It’s not often that you see two guys who go to the same high school play in this tournament, let alone get to the Round of 64 and play each other, so it was pretty cool.”

Moldovan, 17, the No. 26 seed, was drawn to play Green High teammate Cade Breitenstine, of Akron, who landed the No. 39 seed after they qualified at 4-over-par 146 (Moldovan) and 6-over 148 (Breitenstine). Moldovan, who is headed to Ohio State in the fall of 2020, was already a footnote to the championship, having hit the first shot off the first tee on Monday morning at Inverness.

“I sent Cade a text last night and I was like, Wow, what are the odds of that? Let’s have fun tomorrow,” said Moldovan, who won the Ohio Amateur last weekend at Moraine Country Club in Dayton.

With a steady demeanor and accurate driving, Moldovan overcame an early deficit to his fellow Bulldog and advanced with a 3-and-2 victory. He squares off in the Round of 32 against Sean Curran, of New Lenox, Ill., on Thursday at 9 a.m. EDT, seeking a berth in the afternoon Round of 16.

“That’s how I’ve been so successful in match play in the last few weeks,” said Moldovan. “Just hitting fairways and greens and kind of wearing my opponent out. Especially if you get in the fairway every time; it’s got to make them a little mad.”

Breitenstine wasn’t mad, just a little frustrated at the lost opportunity to advance in this, the first USGA championship for both players. Moldovan had been an alternate the past two years.

“Some of the holes that were longer where I could get an advantage if I put it in the fairway, I put it in the rough too much,” said Breitenstine, who is headed to Kent State in the fall. “I’m really kicking myself that I made bogey on No. 16 [where he was closed out]. I really think I had a chance if I made par there. But if you don’t get it going the right way, it can mess with your head a little bit.”

The two have played against each other since Moldovan was 10 and Breitenstine was 11, and last August, Breitenstine came out on top in the Tom Holzer AJGA Junior Championship at Forest Lake Golf Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., edging Moldovan by one stroke to defend the title he had won in 2017. Last month, Moldovan came out ahead when they were paired in the final round of the AJGA Junior Memorial event at Ohio State, although they both lost out to Palmer Jackson, who is also in the Round of 32 at Inverness.

“We had a lot of fun on our team with some of the seniors that were with us, we were kind of goofy at certain points,” said Breitenstine, who had his uncle, Greg Knudson, on the bag this week. “We had really good camaraderie, but today was a totally different thing. And I was in the rough so much, we didn’t get to talk much anyway.”

Another set of high-school teammates were eliminated on Wednesday. Two players from The O’Neal School in Southern Pines, N.C., lost tight matches, with Jackson Van Paris losing in 19 holes to Jacob Sosa, of Austin, Texas, and Tommy Morrison being eliminated by Michael Brennan, of Leesburg, Va., in 20 holes.

Yet another pair of teammates advanced on Wednesday. Luke Potter, who is the No. 4 seed here, combined with Kento Yamawaki in late May to win the California state high school title for La Costa Canyon High in Carlsbad. Potter prevailed, 4 and 3, against Deven Patel, of Johns Creek, Ga., while No. 30 seed Yamawaki defeated James Song, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., 5 and 4.

If the La Costa Canyon teammates keep winning, they can’t meet each other until the championship final.

Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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