It had been a rough 2019 for Matthews, a long-hitting, fourth-year pro who played collegiately at Temple.
After making 13 of 21 cuts in his rookie Korn Ferry Tour campaign of 2018, and then regaining guaranteed starts via a T25 finish at Final Stage of last fall’s Qualifying Tournament, he readied for this season with an abundance of optimism that a PGA TOUR card could be in his near future.
Golf does not always follow such a convenient script. Matthews battles nagging back issues; he spent the year making minor tweaks to keep his swing stable, and consistent rhythm inside the ropes was hard to come by.
He knew a swing change was inevitable, but not during the season as he fought desperately to maintain status. Things didn’t come around, though, as he made just four cuts in 21 starts, finishing No. 184 on the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List and necessitating a return to First Stage of Q-School.
Three weeks into the change — shortening and flattening the swing while maintaining a wide arc — Matthews wasn’t nearly tournament-ready, and he missed by 11 shots at his site in Mobile, Alabama. This meant his lone remaining route to 2020 Korn Ferry Tour status was a top-5 finish on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit (if he hadn’t competed at Q-School, a top-10 position would earn status).
“It’s a tough state of mind to be in, questioning if you really want to keep doing this,” Matthews said of his recent on-course struggles. “But I have an incredible support system. Everybody is so encouraging around me … they kept me going. That kept me going.
“It got to a point one day, where I’m like, ‘Alright, this is what you’ve wanted to do for as long as you can remember.’ (Because of the tweaked back) … I have to do a little more than a 25-year-old has to do to get ready in the mornings, so on and so forth. I have to spend three or four hours a day maintaining that. I decided that it’s worth it for what could potentially happen in the end. So I started working hard on that, on my golf swing.”