Brandon Matthews turned professional after an outstanding collegiate career at Temple and a successful run locally and nationally as an amateur. He earned status on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica in 2017 and prepared to start his climb to what would be his ultimate goal of reaching the PGA Tour.
However, having completed his fourth year as a pro with his second career win last Sunday at the Puerto Plata Open in the Dominican Republic, Matthews knows it’s best to set more short-term goals rather than think too far ahead.
Or as he said after accepting the championship trophy, “I’m just looking forward to the opportunities that lie ahead and keep progressing, a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other kind of thing.”
“At the end of the day, no matter how mature you are at a certain age, there’s no replacement for time, so you learn over the years,” Matthews, 26, said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “You learn more and more every year, you get more intelligent. For me, I understand that there’s going to be challenges. I understand that there’s going to be adversity.
“I need to just pay attention to the next thing at hand and really prepare correctly for those kinds of events, and prepare right for the golf course I’m going to play on. I’m not going to be thinking ahead to the future, just get this ball in the fairway, give yourself a good yardage to hit the middle of the green and give yourself a 20-footer for birdie so you can’t make worse than a par.
“So it’s just kind of taking the near future and just setting your goals a little bit more short-term in the process.”
The long-hitting Matthews, of Dupont in northeastern Pennsylvania, had it going all last weekend, firing 65-65-63-65 for a 26-under-par score of 258 and a 5-stroke victory. Putting was the key.
“Honestly I kept telling people, ‘I’m so close to not just winning but winning by a lot,’” he said. “All that needed to happen was to gain a little confidence and to see some putts start dropping. I was giving myself so many opportunities over the last few months in competition that I knew once I had a good putting week, it was going to be a lot of fun, and I finally had one last week.”
After a disappointing 2019 on the Korn Ferry Tour where he suffered through “four months of the worst golf I’ve ever played since I’ve been heavily competing, amateur or pro,” Matthews went to work on his golf swing in an effort to get more consistent and relieve stress on his back.
He had success toward the end of the year, finishing second in a tournament in Argentina where he made national headlines. A man with Down Syndrome yelled just as he was about to hit a putt in a playoff. When he learned of the man’s affliction, Matthews hugged him and gave him an autographed glove.
He continued to work this year in Florida with golf instructor Dale Gray before the start of the pandemic forced facilities to shut down for about two months. Matthews said he could focus on continuing his work because there was no “next tournament” to be worried about.
“I was able to put in the time and play some really bad golf during that stretch and not worry about, ‘OK, I have a tournament coming up in two weeks, I need to kind of really fix this,’” he said. “It was me grinding and realizing that the end result was going to be better than where I was at.”
Matthews played the PGA Tour’s LocaliQ Series in the late summer and fall against competitors from the tour’s circuits in Latin America, Canada and China. In November he pocketed $10,000 winning a Minor League Golf Tour major tournament in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The hard work had paid off. He finished tied for 18th with four subpar rounds in the Shell Open at Doral, the PGA Tour Latinoamerica’s first event after a nine-month break, then earned the win last week.
The tour will continue in 2021 with perhaps as many as 10 events, Matthews said. If he could win two more, he can earn a promotion to the Korn Ferry Tour, one step short of the PGA Tour. The goals remain short term, but he is brimming with confidence.
“I’m really proud of myself, really proud of my team, sponsors, everybody, a family,” he said. “It’s been a full team effort to get to where I am right now. To be honest with you, if I just keep doing this, it’s going to be a quick rise.”