Brandon Matthews has come a long way since he was winning state championships in red, white and blue trousers.
The Pittston Area graduate and Dupont native is five years removed from his 2010 Pennsylvnia Interscholastic Athletic Association Golf Championship. He’s still winning titles, and his dreams are slowing coming true. Matthews recently finished up his Temple University golf career with a final round, two-under 70 to finish fifth at the American Athletic Conference Championship at the 7,025-yard Quarry Course at Black Diamond Ranch in Lecanto, Florida.
Matthews finished the tournament at three-under-par, just four shots from the lead. According to Matthews, his putting let him down in his two-over-par second round 74.
“I just didn’t make enough putts,” Matthews said. “That’s what it boils down to. It was really disappointing. Bottom line is if I made a few more puts I win the golf tournament.”
Matthews opened the tournament with a three-under 69 on Sunday, before shooting his 74 on Monday to put him tied for sixth. He then returned with his 70 on Tuesday to claim the top-five finish. In the final round, he made seven birdies, but had three bogies and one double bogey that prevented him from matching University of South Florida’s Aksel Olsen.
“I feel like my game is fantastic right now,” Matthews said. “My ball striking is very good and my wedge game is very good right now. My short game can definitely get better and if the putting shows up I can have a special week at any time. I’m working hard and waiting for that putting to click.”
That was the last collegiate tournament for the four-year Temple star. His eight career wins are tied for the most in Temple history, and he was named the school’s first All-American since 1988. More accolades will come for Matthews, but he already has a heavy trophy case.
In his first year at Temple, on the heels of a seventh place finish in the state as a senior at Pittston Area, Matthews was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year and made All-Conference. He set school records for lowest round as a freshman with a 64 at The McLaughlin. Last spring, he tied a school record with three straight tournament wins to earn his second bid to the NCAA Tournament and All-American status.
Last year, as a junior, Matthews averaged 70.9 per round, breaking the Temple mark. He was also named Temple’s PNC Male Student-Athlete of the Year with the basketball team’s Will Cummings.
“I can’t believe it’s over,” Matthews said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m so thankful to the coach and the team that I had and the opportunities I was given. I couldn’t ask for a better place to spend my four years of college.”
His senior year wasn’t as kind to the golf star as the previous few years. Matthews failed to win a tournament this year for the first time in his collegiate career, but he turned up the success toward the latter half of the season. It culminated with his fifth place finish at the conference championships.
In the fall, Matthews battled injury to begin the season. He then battled back with two top-10 finishes to close out the fall season.
“It was a lot of hard work, that’s what gets you back from anything,” he said. “You just have to put in a lot of time and effort. I know if I’m struggling I can always come back.”
Although Matthews’ career at Temple may be finished, his golf game is not.
Matthews admitted he will retain his amateur status until the fall when he will turn professional. He wants his amateur status in tact for this year’s U.S. Amateur Championship, which is in mid-August at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Sectional qualifying for the U.S. Amateur begins in July.
In 2013, Matthews made a run to the quarterfinals at the U.S. Amateur.
Matthews’ next big tournament is Monday, May 16 at Silver Creek Country Club in Hellertown for the U.S. Open Local Qualifying. It was in 2013 when Matthews made a name for himself after qualifying to be an alternate at the prestigious U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club.
“It’s pretty incredible that any regular, scratch golfer can play in the U.S. Open,” he said. “It’s great for the golfing community. You hear some great stories every year and my game is coming around nicely.”
Other than the U.S. Amateur, there are several other tournaments Matthews will be playing in this summer prior to turning professional. In the fall, he will head down to Florida for PGA Tour Qualifying School to see if he can make his dreams come true.
Locals in U.S. Open qualifier
Once again, the United States Golf Association will be holding a local qualifer at Huntsville Country Club for a chance to play in the U.S. Open, which is scheduled for the third week of June at Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh.
Several local players will be trying their luck on Wednesday, May 18 in the one-day tournament.
Pittston Area graduate Tyler McGarry will tee off at 12:02 p.m. with Shavertown native Mariano Medico and Newport native Kevin Kraft.
Joseph Hurn of Mountain Top starts his round at 9:50 a.m. Dallas native Michael Molino tees off at 10:34 a.m. Bill Smith, of Hazleton, tees off at 1:08 p.m. Dallas native Austin Smith tees off at 1:52 p.m.
The tournament is hosted by the North Central Pennsylvania Golf Association and the Anthracite Golf Association.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick