Pittston Area’s Brandon Matthews watches his second shot on 17 hit the green at Elmhurst CC on Wednesday.photo by jason Reidmiller
Defending district and state champion Brandon Matthews of Pittston Area was one of only two Wyoming Valley Conference players among the eight boys and four girls who qualified for the PIAA East Regional Oct. 17 at Golden Oak Golf Club in Fleetwood last week at the District 2 Golf Championships at Elmhurst Country Club.
Matthews shot 37-36-39 (112) to finish fifth overall. Holy Redeemer’s Mariano Medico was the other WVC player to qualify, losing in a one-hole playoff for the district title with champion Ryan Brown of Scranton Prep.
A total of 82 boys played 18 holes to get into the top 15 scores before playing nine more to determine the district title and the regional qualifiers.
Matthews matched Medico’s 73 to enter the extra nine one stroke behind Brown and Greg Reeves of Lakeland.
Before long, Matthews went from trying to defend his district title to just wanting to be sure he protected a chance to defend his state championship.
Three-putts on 2, 3 and 5 and a wildly long approach shot on 6 changed his goals.
“I thought, ‘If you don’t birdie one of the next two holes, you’re not going to make it,’ ” Matthews said. “On 8, I hit two good shots.
“It like having a 2000-pound weight lifted off my shoulders.”
Matthews used his birdie-par finish to wind up in a three-way tie for third, three shots behind Brown and Medico.
Brown raced out to the early lead. He started on 2 and had birdies there, as well as at 5, 6, 8 and 12. He was 3-under just seven holes into the day.
The tournament, however, lasted nine-and-a-half hours for Brown and Medico and nearly 10 for those involved in a playoff for the final state berths. A sluggish final nine was played in strong gusting winds and dipping temperatures before the playoffs finished under the moonlight.
Matthews made it by using his short game to offset a poor ball-striking round in the first 18, then hitting the shots necessary to counter his putting troubles in the final nine.
“In the first 18, I hit the ball atrocious, like the slump I was in (back) in August,” Matthews said.
North Pocono’s Ken Sames, who tied for third in the state championship last year, fell one shot short of the playoff.
Courtney Melvin of Wyoming Area tied for eighth for the best finish by a WVC girl. Melvin shot 46-49 (95). Danielle Dalessandro of Scranton Prep won the event with a 40-37 (77).
Matt Carroll of Pittston Area shot 81 to miss the first cut by just two strokes.
Wyoming Area’s Nick Rydzewski, who finished eighth in the WVC qualifier, carded an 85, while Old Forge’s Corey Palma fired an 89.
Pittston Area’s CJ Lynch shot 91 and Ryan Tracy turned in a 92.