No matter how far Brandon Matthews travels in pursuit of his developing career as a touring professional golfer, the two-way connection with his fans, many from the Greater Pittston area, remains.
Matthews has immediate reassurance that people are watching his scores and encouragement to keep grinding.
In a different era, the pursuit could be a lonelier one, but now fans can know instantly how he is doing during a tournament at www.pgatour.com/la/en.html and friends can quickly send along their encouragement.
“I have so many people behind me and just continuously supporting me that it’s incredible,” said Matthews, a 23-year-old from Dupont, who won the 2010 PIAA Class 3A individual state boys golf title while a junior at Pittston Area. “Even if I just play a solid round of golf, nothing crazy, if I shoot a couple under on the Latin American Tour, I have 50 to 100 text messages rolling in, saying ‘Great round, congratulations, I’m rooting for you’, stuff like that.”
Matthews accurately simplifies his progress, in his first full season as a professional, in minor-league baseball terms. He is thriving on the Double-A level, dabbling at Triple-A and hoping to establish himself there next year on his way to the Major Leagues.
Double-A is the PGA Latinoamerica Tour. Matthews made the tour at a qualifying school in Mexico, debuted with a ninth-place finish in Colombia and became the tour’s youngest U.S. winner ever as a then-22-year-old in his second event with a March victory at the Canuelas Open in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“That week, what really sticks out the most to me is how smart of a golf tournament I played,” Matthews said. “I wasn’t hitting the golf ball that great, but I was putting very well that whole week.
“I played to my strengths, even though I wasn’t driving the golf ball all that great. I placed the ball well off the tee, laying back a little bit with my driving iron and making sure I gave myself the most opportunities possible.”
When he is driving the ball well, Matthews already ranks with some of the longest hitters in all of professional golf.
By showing there is more than just power to his game, Matthews has made three of six cuts and has finished in the top 10 each of the three times he made it to the weekend. As the circuit prepares to return from a two-month break with the Abierto del Paraguay-Copa NEC Aug. 17-20, Matthews stands fifth on the Order of Merit, the official money list, with $48,125 in earnings.
Jose Toledo, a 31-year-old University of New Orleans graduate from Guatemala, leads the Latinoamerica Tour at $59,644.
The early win put Matthews in position to try to lock down a top-five Order of Merit standing at the end of the season, which would guarantee him a tour card in “Triple-A” next season on the Web.com Tour.
Matthews said he plans to play all the remaining Latinoamerica Tour events – there are 10, including one U.S. visit to Miami and the series finale in Mexico Dec. 7-10 – to give himself the best chance at that top-five finish.
Each step up the ladder from there opens more opportunities in terms of future tournament entries and less pursuit of tournament spots through qualifying events.
“I feel like, with my game, I can win on any level,” said Matthews, who set several school records while playing NCAA Division I golf at Temple University. “It’s just putting all the pieces together.
“I feel like I’m on a great ladder to where I want to be, which is the PGA Tour. I just need to have a good fall, have a great year on the Web next year and then I’m on the PGA Tour in 2019.”
Matthews has made two cuts in three tries on the Web.com Tour, but finished near the bottom of the groups surviving to the weekend while picking up $4,577 at those events.
Sponsorships from Callaway golf, Martz Bus and Eastern Highreach, a boom and crane company in the Philadelphia suburbs, as well as additional financial support from “some close friends, great people” and the early-season prize money have helped keep Matthews from worrying too much about the travel costs while concentrating on his golf game and where he plans to end up in the near future.
Matthews is neither comfortable financially nor stressed about how he is going to get to the next tournament. Within that, he said he can’t be frivolous and he needs to keep producing while chasing a dream that some connections from home help make possible.
“The amount of support that comes from this area, I’m stuttering for words because I don’t have any,” Matthews said. “It’s a pretty special thing.
“It’s sometimes I tough life, but the people I have around me make it pretty easy.”
Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLSports