For 20 minutes, Matthews' dream was reality
PURCHASE, N.Y. – Sometimes a potential storyline is simply too perfect, too flawless to actually come to life. Such was the case with Brandon Matthews.
Matthews, who just completed his freshman season at Temple University in Philadelphia where he was named the Atlantic 10 Conference's Rookie of the Year, caught fire nearing the turn of his second round at the Century Country Club. The 18-year-old went birdie-birdie-eagle-par-birdie on holes six through 10 to surge up the leaderboard.
On the ninth hole, his final of the day, he blocked a 3-iron off the tee into the right rough on the 416-yard par 4. With 180 yards to the middle of the green and 190 to the hole, Matthews choked down on a 7-iron which he typically hits 195 yards.
"It flew," he said from behind the scorer's tent. "It came out like a knuckleball and squirted low."
The ball came to rest against the base of a massive oak tree behind the green, forcing Matthews to take a drop and incur a penalty stroke.
Mathews, from Dupont, Pa., sensed that he was close to qualifying for a U.S. Open that would be played in his home state, at historic Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, but hadn't wanted to think about where he stood until that moment.
"I had to ask," he said, and consulted his father about where he stood in relation to the rest of the field.
"My father actually gave me the wrong information," he said, laughing. "He told me that I was tied for fourth, but then the MGA official came over and said, 'You're in fourth alone.' "
Knowing that, Matthews reached for his 58-degree wedge and pitched from rough that had the consistency of creamed spinach.
"I landed it 2 feet onto the green," he said, exactly where he intended, "and the ball trickled down and into the hole."
Matthews exploded with emotion after holing out to save par, hugged his caddie, then, tearfully, embraced his dad.
"Honestly, I thought that had me in the Open," he said.
After signing his card and finishing at 2 under, shedding more tears with his father and trying to calm his nerves on the practice green in anticipation of a possible playoff, Matthews was by the side of the ninth green when Gavin Hall drained his fourth straight birdie putt. With Geoffrey Sisk and Jesse Smith already done at 4 under and Jim Herman having already finished at 3 under, Matthews went from ecstasy to agony in 20 minutes.
"What more can you ask for," Matthews said afterward. "Gavin Hall birdied the last four. He played those holes great."
Matthews is the first alternate from the Met Section into this year's U.S. Open, but many in his shoes would have asked for the storyline befitting a Walt Disney movie to come true.