Matthews' Palmer-esque gesture earns invitation to Bay Hill
March 03, 2020
By Sean Martin
Brandon Matthews meets fan after incident at tournament
ORLANDO, Fla. – Brandon Matthews’ act of kindness is being rewarded this week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard.
Matthews made headlines at last year’s Argentina Open when he hugged a fan with Down Syndrome who inadvertently yelled in his stroke during a playoff. A startled Matthews missed the 8-foot putt that he needed to make to extend the playoff.
At first, Matthews was frustrated by the distraction. Then he learned that the man had Down Syndrome. Matthews sought him out to give him a signed glove and a big hug.
He wasn’t trying to get attention. He just wanted to comfort the fan and let him know that Matthews wasn’t mad.
“My mom used to work in group homes and I was around that kind of stuff my entire childhood. My best friend’s little sister has Down syndrome,” Matthews said. “So I saw it on a daily basis and I just kind of have a special place in my heart for it.”
The people at the Arnold Palmer Invitational noticed, and rewarded Matthews with a sponsor exemption. The event’s Twitter feed said Matthews responded “just as Mr. Palmer would have – with kindness, humility and grace.”
Matthews, like Palmer a Pennsylvania native, was humbled by the comparison.
"Some things in life are just bigger than golf."@B_Matthews12 missed a putt in a playoff of a @PGATOURLA event when a fan yelled in his backswing. It cost him the win and a spot in The Open.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) November 18, 2019
When he learned that the fan had Down syndrome, he immediately asked to meet him. pic.twitter.com/kBbVNqNwsh
“To be mentioned in any kind of light with Mr. Palmer is incredible,” Matthews said. “I’m very, very humbled by it. He was the epitome of sportsmanship.. You hear all these stories about him and all of them are so positive, it’s incredible. He’s done so much for this game, so much for a lot of people’s lives. He truly did it right.”
Besides his compassionate gesture, Matthews is known for his eye-popping length. He led the Korn Ferry Tour in driving distance last year, averaging 331.3 yards. He is playing PGA TOUR Latinoamerica this year after finishing 184th on the Korn Ferry Tour’s regular-season points list. This is his first tournament since December. He said he’s spent the past few months working with his swing coach, Dale Gray, to increase his consistency.
Matthews won on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica in 2017. He would’ve earned a spot in The Open Championship if he’d won last year’s Argentina Open. There are three spots in The Open Championship available this week, as well.
“I’ve worked my whole life for this,” Matthews said. “I have a lot of self-belief in my game. I truly feel like this is where I belong and this is where I need to be.”
He’s on the PGA TOUR for at least one week, after an admirable display of compassion.