GREENSBORO — Safe to say young Maxwell Ford is a big fan of golf architect Donald Ross and the first nine holes at Sedgefield Country Club.
Ford, a 16-year-old rising high school junior at Rivers Academy in the Atlanta suburbs, has made 12 birdies and a bogey the last three days on the Sedgefield front nine. He leads the AJGA’s Wyndham Invitational by three shots heading into Friday’s final round.
Ford shot a 2-over 72 in the third round Thursday, but he heads into the final round of Greensboro’s 18th annual AJGA “major” at 6-under par.
“It’s a tough golf course,” Ford said. “I like the front nine, definitely. You just have to keep the driver in play, really. We’re playing lift-clean-and-place, the last two days fairway-only, so you’ve got to keep it in the fairway. I’ve hit fairways and greens, and I’ve made a few putts.”
Ford had held the lead since a first-round 64 in which he shot 29 on the front.
“I don’t play a lot of old-school courses like this one, but I play a lot of Bermuda greens, and that’s what this is,” Ford said. “So I’m used to it more than the kids from up North. I like the golf course a lot. It’s fun. It’s a test, a real challenge. It’s everything, really. You’ve got to keep your head in it the whole time.”
Ford holds a three-shot lead over both 14-year-old Ben James of Connecticut and 17-year-old Brett Roberts of Florida.
Roberts, a rising high school senior committed to play college golf at Florida State, played in the same group as Ford, shooting a 64 Wednesday and a 73 today.
“Three shots? That can change in two holes, maybe three holes. It’s still anyone’s tournament,” Roberts said. “… I’ll take where I’m at through three days, but it could’ve been a lot better. I didn’t play great today, didn’t have many chances and didn’t make any putts. Hopefully it’ll be better tomorrow.”
Seven players will start the final round under par, including David Ford, who is 1-under after a third-round 68. The Fords are brothers, and along with a sister make up a set of triplets.
Defending champ Karl Vilips, a 17-year-old Australian who has lived in Florida since age 11, is at even par through three rounds. Vilips, the AJGA’s No. 1 player and the No. 34 amateur in the world, is playing in Greensboro for the fourth consecutive year.
That’s a common theme for the tournament, an invitational for boys ages 12 to 19. Friendships born on the AJGA circuit tend to last a long, long time.
“There’s a ping pong table in (the Sedgefield clubhouse), and that’s where the actual competition goes down,” Maxwell Ford said. “It’s always fun out there, especially when you’re near the lead. That brings you a lot closer to the other guys competing. I noticed that today. I’m friends with a lot of the guys I see at these tournaments, guys from all over the country.”
He’ll sleep on a lead tonight and play in the final group Friday, hunting for his first AJGA victory. He’s finished second, 18th and third in his last three starts.
“I haven’t gotten a breakthrough win yet,” Ford said, “but I’ve played solid and been in contention a lot. So I’m getting used to that. I don’t really know what the leaderboard looks like, but I can’t worry about anybody else, anyway. I just have to play my own game.”