By HARRIET PROTHRO PENROD, Journal Sports
When Sydney Moss stepped up to the 17th tee in the final round of the AJGA Shreveport Junior Open Tournament at Querbes Park Golf Course on Friday, the recent Byrd graduate was in sole possession of second place – and one shot ahead of Nikki Iniakov of Prunedale, Calif.
On the par-3 17th, Moss hit her tee shot short of the green while Iniakov and tournament leader Anna Kate Nichols of Little Rock, Ark., both put their tee shots within 16 feet of the back left pin. Moss’s putt off the green came up 12 feet short and her par putt ran three feet past the hole. Moss’s bogey, along with Iniakov’s birdie from 16 feet, put the two in a tie for second place behind Nichols, whose par gave her a four-stroke advantage over the twosome.
As Moss, the only local girl to compete in the event, made her way to the 18th tee, she was approached by a couple of fans riding up in a cart.
“How’s it going?” asked the passenger.
Moss smiled and said, “Could be better.”
There are a number of things to notice about this exchange. First, Moss was not bothered at all to be asked a question during the round, let alone after just bogeying the 17th hole of the final round of a golf tournament. Next, this wasn’t just any tournament – it was an event on the nation’s top junior tour in which she is near the top of the leaderboard.
And finally, there was the smile. There always seems to be a smile on Sydney Moss’s face, no matter what is happening on the golf course. That attitude, combined with a fierce determination, has led Moss to incredible success – the 2021 Division I state individual title, a runner-up finish in the 2022 Division I state championship, and the 2020 Louisiana Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship.
About her positive attitude, Moss says, “I know this game does not define who I am. I just try to stay positive.”
Perhaps that is something she learned from her father, Perry, who was a two-time All-American at LSU, a PGA Tour professional, and the 1985 Louisiana Junior Amateur champion. When Sydney won the amateur title in 2020, they became the only father-daughter in state history to accomplish that feat.
“I never saw him play competitively,” she said, “but it’s safe to say he had the same attitude. It’s all a mindset – not letting things affect you. There is so much that you cannot control so, with that in mind, I try to focus on what I can control and be content with myself.”
Moss had to rely on that calm attitude when she reached the final hole of the AJGA tournament.
All three girls missed the green on their approach shots to the 18th green – Nichols ended up just off the green to the right, Iniakov’s was pin high left, and Moss was short and right. While Iniakov chipped to within two feet and made her par and Nichols almost chipped in and tapped in for par, Moss’s chip went 22 feet past the hole.
While Moss knew her par putt was important to the outcome of the tournament, she later said she “wasn’t aware” exactly where she stood at that point.
“I just knew that if I relaxed and let it happen, it could drop,” she said. “I just tried to let it go in.”
The 22-footer fell in to assure Moss of a tie for second place, as she and Iniakov finished four shots back of Nichols.
Moss’s 2-under 69 on Thursday put her in a tie for second with Iniakov going into the final round — just two shots back of Nichols, whose even-par 71 on Friday gave her a four-shot victory.
Moss (70-69-73-212) and Iniakov (68-71-73-212) finished at -1 while Nichols took the title at -5 (70-67-71-208).
“In all honesty, (Thursday) was the hardest,” said Moss. “It should have been easier, based on the weather, but it wasn’t. I just had to manage my game and the course today.”
Moss started the final round with a bogey on the par-4 first, a birdie on the par-4 second, and a bogey on the par-3 third before closing out the front with a bogey on the par-3 ninth to go out in 2-over 37. A birdie on the par-5 11th and the bogey on 17 gave her even-par 36 on the back.
“Overall, I had a great tournament,” said Moss, who will play at the University of Memphis next year. “I was able to hold my own.”
Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL