Matthews makes most of trip to Merion


First Posted: 6/11/2013

With only one shot, it seemed as if Brandon Matthews was going to write a new chapter in his already impressive biography.

The Pittston Area grad, now Temple University standout golfer, saw his dreams of making the 113th United States Open Golf Championship slip away at last week’s sectional qualifying in Purchase, N.Y. But that was after he made one of the prettiest shots a golf course can see.

The Golf Channel was talking about it for days. And Twitter? Well that social networking site just blew up with reaction to Matthews’ remarkable chip-in on his final hole to save par. That seemed to put the Dupont native on a one-way train to Merion Golf Club in Ardmore.

“It was very hard to describe,” Matthews said of his hole out on the final hole. “It’s something you feel a couple times in your life, maybe. To replicate that shot is like one in a million.”

He held the clinching spot for only about 20 minutes.

And as the game of golf goes, things can quickly change. Gavin Hall, a three-time New York Junior Amateur Champion, was the one player that could catch him. And he did by carding birdies on the final four holes to get his spot in the U.S. Open.

Matthews and Hall each played the last four holes of the qualifier in 4-under. But it was the birdie on Hall’s final hole that sent him to the Open, not Matthews.

“I watched the last hole,” Matthews said. “I watched him birdie and hold him congratulations. He’s a great kid and he deserves what he got.”

Following the heartbreak in Purchase, Matthews settled for first alternate after rounds of 72 at Old Oaks Country Club and 67 at Century for a 2-under-par 139. He got hot at Century, where he went 5-under par (three birdies and an eagle) on holes six through 10. His 58-degree wedge did all the talking on the final hole. But it wasn’t enough.

“I pulled off probably one of the best shots of my life,” he said. “The situation and the pressure. That chip was literally to make the United States Open Championship, at the time.”

Hall missed the cut at the U.S. Open by three strokes and boasted rounds of 74 and 77. And Matthews was surprised by the difficulty professionals were having with the storied golf club.

Merion was playing it’s hardest. With rough covering the players shoes, and fairways tighter than a single lane highway, Justin Rose captured the championship at 1-over par after his Ben Hogan-esque shot on the 72nd hole. Rose went eclipsed Phil Mickelson to win his first major championship at one of the most difficult tracks the United States Golf Association has ever revealed.

“I though a guy would get hot and and go at least three or four under,” he said. “That last stretch of holes might be the toughest in the world.”

Although Matthews was left with an alternate spot at Merion, he was still there, soaking up everything he could from some of the greatest players in the world.

“To see how those guys hit, the biggest thing I got out of it was I think I can do it,” Matthews said. “I think I belong out there. I think I can hang.”

The next stop on Matthews’ roller coaster ride will be the United State Amateur Championship. That pits about 300 amateur golfers in two days of stroke play. Then, the top 64 play a match-play format, culminating in a 36-hole championship match.

The U.S. Amateur Championship begins Aug. 12 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

“I consider myself a descent match play player rather than stroke play,” Matthews said. “I think I can fair pretty well.”

The Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year still has some time before deciding on turning professional. Before that, he will look to defend his title at the John A. Allan Invitational, which starts Friday at Fox Hill Country Club.

“Hopefully (the tour) will be my office in a couple years,” he said. “Getting the taste makes me want more. I’ll work harder to get to that position and be with those guys day in and day out.”

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