LAKEWOOD RANCH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 14: Brandon Matthews watches his tee shot on the 10th hole during the first round of the LECOM Suncoast Classic at Lakewood National Golf Club on February 14, 2019 in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker
On Sunday, Brandon Matthews had an eight-foot birdie putt to extend a playoff against Ricardo Celia to a fourth extra hole at the Argentine Open. At stake, other than a victory on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, was a spot in the field for next year’s Open Championship at Royal St. George’s.
Then a fan yelled out as Matthews took his stroke, and he missed the putt.
“I’d been putting really well all week and I had no doubt that I was going to make the putt,” the 25-year-old said Monday morning, fresh off a redeye back to his home in South Florida. “At that stage, any minute noise resonates.
“I gave it a little too much right hand, missed it and turned around and said, ‘Come on guys, seriously?!’ I was obviously frustrated about it.”
What Matthews didn’t know at the time was that the fan who yelled out was a middle-aged man with Down Syndrome, which an official from the tour explained to him in the locker room afterward.
That’s where the story could have ended. It would have been understandable.
Except that Matthews, who grew up in DuPont, Pa., played golf at Temple University and whose mom managed group homes for Goodwill, wanted to meet the man. So an official ushered him back to the course, where Matthews gave the fan a hug, signed a glove and ball and chatted with him for a few minutes.
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Brandon Matthews 🇺🇸 falló un putt que le habría dado la posibilidad de seguir luchando un intenso play-off con @PipoCelia por el 🏆del #VisaOpenbyMacro . ¿La razón de su fallo? Un señor con Síndrome de Down hizo un sonido involuntario en el momento menos oportuno. En un acto de caballero, Matthews se acercó, le pidió disculpas por su inmediata reacción, le firmó un guante y le regaló una pelota. On the third playoff hole of the VISA Open de Argentina on Sunday, a mentally disabled fan moved and talked right as @brandonmatthewsgolf was about to make his stroke on an eight-foot birdie putt that would have extended the playoff. Matthews missed the putt and lost the playoff to Ricardo Celia 🇨🇴. In a #classact Matthews went over and signed a glove and a ball for this fan. • 📽 @martinbachiller. #Volvo #Hilton #GoVacaciones
“I wanted to make sure he didn’t feel badly about the situation,” Matthews said. “I grew up around people with special needs because of what my mom did when I was kid and have a soft spot in my heart [for people with special needs].”
It was a nice moment, perhaps one the golf gods will notice.
The runner-up was Matthews’ best finish since his lone victory at the 2017 Molino Canuelas Championship in the second start of his career. It was also his second straight top five after a miserable stretch in which he missed the cut eight times and withdrew another three in his last 11 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour.
As for that spot in The Open?
“It’s going to sting and there are times where I’m going to think about it,” Matthews said. “But at the end of the day, I’m 25 years old and have a long career ahead of me.”