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Long-hitting Brandon Matthews displays mental fortitude in TOUR chase

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PANAMA, CIUDAD DE, PANAMA - FEBRUARY 06: Brandon Matthews of the United States hits a his tee shot on the 13th hole during the final round of The Panama Championship at Panama Golf Club on February 6, 2022 in Panama City, Panama. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

PANAMA, CIUDAD DE, PANAMA - FEBRUARY 06: Brandon Matthews of the United States hits a his tee shot on the 13th hole during the final round of The Panama Championship at Panama Golf Club on February 6, 2022 in Panama City, Panama. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)

    For the most part, Korn Ferry Tour pros have a straightforward season-ending goal. The PGA TOUR is in their sights – whether they want to make their debut or return to the biggest stage in the sport.

    Brandon Matthews says he’s different. It might even sound weird, he admits. There’s no goal. There’s just living, every day, as a new opportunity.

    And now he’s trying to take advantage of the best stretch of golf he’s ever played to reach the TOUR – even though he doesn’t necessarily have that circled on paper or typed in his phone.

    “I try not to get ahead of myself and look into the future for what’s ahead. I just think about what I’m doing during that day and that week and my process for that,” said Matthews, fresh off last week’s runner-up finish at The Panama Championship, his career-best Korn Ferry Tour showing.

    “I love this game so much. I’m fortunate enough every day to get to play it.”

    Matthews entered 2022 on the heels of a two-win season on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica and the No. 1 spot on the Tour’s money list during the combined 2020-21 season, earning fully exempt Korn Ferry Tour status in the process.

    Through the early part of the 2022 Korn Ferry Tour slate, he has made the cut in three straight events and was just one shot back of Carson Young’s winning total in Panama.

    He had a slight miscommunication with his caddie coming down the stretch Sunday in Panama, he said, and thought his 25-footer on the 72nd hole was to tie the clubhouse lead. It wasn’t the case, but after draining the putt, he said he was “thrilled” with how he was able to handle what he perceived as final-round, final-hole pressure.

    That feeling was partly a reflection of how he’s matured in every aspect of golf, and life, over the last few years.

    He has a new swing coach, Dale Gray, who is based in New York but frequents Florida to see Matthews and his whip-strong action. Brian Symonds, based in Florida as the owner of Winston Trails GC, has become “instrumental” in getting Matthews to display the type of form he has shown over the past 12 months.

    “It’s honestly incredible how good my short game has got in the year since I’ve been going to see (Symonds),” said Matthews. “You can get taught all you want, but you still have to put in the work. I’ve been trying to put in as much work as I possibly can. Treat my body correctly. It’s been a great progression over the last couple of years.”

    When asked about the rest of his support system, there’s the briefest of pauses. Not because he doesn’t know who else has been helpful, but it’s almost like Matthews is unable to express how important Danielle Maslany, his fiancée, has been to him.

    “There’s no one better,” said Matthews. “She’s unbelievable how she’s supported me throughout with what I want to do. It’s incredible … I’m very lucky to have someone who supports me like that.”

    They’re getting married on September 24 back in their home state of Pennsylvania – “I’m going to let her do the planning,” said Matthews, laughing.

    Despite his new Floridian residency (Maslany owns a full-service marketing agency in Jupiter – DM Creative House), Matthews had been keen to give back to an area that had given him so much as a golfer.

    Last year, he organized a pro-am and charity event that raised $50,000 as a scholarship fund for young golfers in the Scranton, Pennsylvania area. The Country Club of Scranton hosted the day. The professionals played for a $50,000 purse, while Billy Pabst Jr. – a young star who is heading to Penn State to play golf – was the first recipient of the scholarship.

    Matthews admits he was running around “like a chicken with its head cut off” trying to make phone calls and managing a type of workflow that he isn’t used to, but he said it was fun.

    “Normally I just wake up and all I think about is what kind of shot I need to hit,” said Matthews. “Happy to think about it, obviously, from a different aspect and go on the business side a little bit.

    “To raise a lot of money for our area and give such a great kid a scholarship and a membership to The Country Club of Scranton was all worth it.”

    That event came at the end of 2021, after Matthews completed his big-time season on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica. His celebrated college years well behind him, there’s one thing that Matthews has been able to bring with him throughout his professional career – his distance.

    The 6-foot-4 Matthews admits he never tried to hit the ball far; it has just been a natural asset. The last time he played on the Korn Ferry Tour long enough for the data to be collected – 2019 – he averaged more than 330 yards a pop.

    The way he controls that distance has matured alongside every other part of his game. He still describes his length as a difference-maker, though.

    “Being able to manage that and reel it back and look at distance as an advantage … I can hit 3-iron off the tee and have the same distance coming in as everyone else does with driver off the tee,” he explained. “There are so many different things that go into that and realize what makes it an advantage and how to use that properly. It’s been a great learning curve.”

    That’s what Matthews has been doing as he inches ever closer to earning a PGA TOUR card – learning. About golf, life, and how to balance it all out.

    “I’m just trying to do the best I possibly can for the day ahead,” said Matthews, “and if I can do that properly, it’ll create some pretty good results.”

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