Pro whose kind gesture went viral gets start at Wells Fargo Championship

Brandon Matthews in 2019 (left) and teeing off in 2022.

Brandon Matthews is back in the headlines. This time, it’s because the Korn Ferry Tour winner and bomber earned a sponsor’s exemption into this week’s Wells Fargo Championship.

A couple of years ago, it was because of a story that involved a missed putt, a lost playoff and a heartfelt interaction with a fan.

Back in 2019, Matthews was in the midst of a playoff at the Visa Open de Argentina on the Latinoamérica tour, with the winner getting an invite into the Open Championship. Facing an eight-footer for birdie to extend the playoff to a fourth hole, Matthews heard a fan scream during his backstroke and missed the putt.

“I thought someone had done it intentionally,” he told Golf Channel a day later. “I was frustrated. Really, I was in shock that that just happened.”

Later in the locker room, Matthews was told the fan who yelled had Down Syndrome and lost control of his emotions during an exciting moment. He asked to see the fan and, through the help of a translator, talked to him, signed a glove and gave him a hug.

“I was around mental disability growing up, and I have a soft spot in my heart for it. Those are really special people,” he said. “I felt so terrible that I was even upset. I just wanted to make sure that he didn’t feel bad.”

The story went viral.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years later, and Matthews is preparing for his second career PGA Tour start. He won his first Korn Ferry Tour event in February and now sits 4th on the Korn Ferry Tour Points List, meaning he’s in good position to secure a full-time PGA Tour card next season.

Matthews’ otherworldly length off the tee was a big topic during his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday, but he was also asked again about that putt, and his gesture, back in 2019.

“I just did that because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “At the end of the day I always told people if it wasn’t a story, I feel like that would be a better situation because that’s just how people should react to that, but the fact that it was, I mean, maybe it shed some light and changed people’s opinions on how to do things.”

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Matthews, 27, has finished T2-T22-T33 since his win, but this week he has his driver, his best weapon, back in the bag.

His longest drive this season is 442 yards and he ranks 34th in driving distance (307 yards). He said his “fairway finder” driver swing flies just over 330 yards, and if he wants to lift one it can carry north of 340 yards. (His 6-iron? That carries 216.)

Matthews didn’t even use his driver in two of the last three tournaments because it didn’t fit the course.

“When I do have driver in the bag, obviously there’s a big advantage there, especially if I’m hitting it well and consistent and I feel good with it,” he said. “So I do feel good with it this week and it is nice to have that thing back in the bag.”

His only other PGA Tour start came at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2020. He missed the cut. He remembers that week as hectic, but this time he’s practicing and preparing differently. His swing coach and fiancee are in for the tournament. His dad is coming down. Matthews is from Scranton, Pa., and went to college at Temple in Philadelphia, so the drive to TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in Maryland is under three hours. More friends and family will make their way, too. He said he’s already received about “a thousand texts” from people who are either heading to the course or wishing him luck.

“I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of the support system that I have beyond family and friends,” he said. “I’m a really lucky guy.”

He tees off in the last group off the 1st hole at 2:22 p.m. ET on Thursday alongside Kurt Kitayama and Paul Barjon.

“I’m definitely not as nervous (as my first PGA Tour start), and I really, really, really feel like I belong,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest part.”

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