HANOVER TWP. — Before he goes pro in the fall, Brandon Matthews wanted to go out and have a little fun.
He picked the 2016 McCarthy golf course as a perfect place to find some.
Matthews and his partner Ken Ralston finished The McCarthy’s qualifying round with a five-under 66 Friday, advancing to the weekend’s championship flight and matching the tandem of Scott Henry and former golf professional Eric Williams for the top score during qualifying rounds at Wyoming Valley Country Club.
“This is nice,” said Matthews, a former Pennsylvania high school state champion when he played for Pittston Area. “I always love playing in these things. A lot of fun, a lot of good relaxation.”
He’s accustomed to a lot of success, as an All-American honorable mention at Temple University and an alternate for the U.S. Open.
Neither Frank Schiel Sr. nor his son Frank Jr. have that kind of pedigree, but they’ll join the Championship Flight in The McCarthy on Saturday after winning a four-team playoff for the 16th and final spot in the field.
Frank Schiel Jr. snapped off a long setup shot to the green, then finished up with a birdie to best the teams of Mark Jones and Rich Serafin, Mark Soprano and Jim Roberts and Ed Brady and Neil Bukeavich after one hole.
“Missed an Eagle putt, made birdie, got in (the championship flight),” Schiel Jr. said. “We’ll see what happens (Saturday). The course played tough. We kind of struggled today, shot 1-over. We didn’t play to the best of our abilities. But we held our own, we kept it together. We were shocked we got in a playoff, I thought (shooting) 1-over, we would have never got in.”
Matthews, who reached the semifinal round of The McCarthy last year, is accustomed to being in play for a tournament title.
His team birdied the first three holes at the start of the McCarthy on Friday, and played steadily throughout his morning round to wrap up qualifying as a co-leader.
That’s typical of Matthews.
During a record-setting career at Temple, Matthews qualified as an alternate at the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club a couple of years ago. He reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur once and missed making a second U.S. Amateur quarterfinals by one stroke; and finished as high as 15th at the NCAA Championships.
The Dupont native placed in the top 10 in the 11 of 12 tournaments he played during two separate seasons at Temple. Matthews began his college career by winning the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week award a record 10 times and was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year following the 2012-13 season after shooting a 64 at McLaughlin — the lowest single round at that tournament since 1973 and the lowest-ever by a freshman.
He tied Temple records with three consecutive tournament victories and eight career wins, and his 70.9 average round as a junior in 2014-15 set a new single-season school record.
The Wyoming Valley’s most decorated college golfer since former PGA player Ted Tryba of Hanover Twp., Matthews is typically the most-watched, and most favored golfer, in any area tournament he plays.
But if that pressures him, he hasn’t noticed.
“It’s really for fun,” Matthews said. “I’m happy to be around so many good people here.”
That will change soon.
Matthews plans to head to play in one more U.S. Amateur Championship in August at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Then he will head down to the PGA Tour Qualifying School in October, in an attempt to earn his card to play professionally on the PGA Tour.
“Really, Q School is the easier way to the PGA Tour,” Matthews said. “It’s a series of four tournaments in all (where golfers have to keep qualifying to advance to the next one). It’s a tough road.
“But I’m excited to start it.”
Until then, Matthews will keep busy with a few one-day tournaments. Up next for him is the 2016 Golf Classic at Glenmaura, where he will team with Jimmy Gardas.
“I’m not really sure about any other ones,” Matthews said. “I’m just here to have a good time, enjoy myself over this weekend.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski