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Defending state champ falls short of repeat

Pittston Area star finishes tied for 7th with a 10-over 152

Matthews

PA’s Brandon Matthews watches one of his drives from earlier this season. The defending PIAA champ finished 7th this year.

He smoked a 360-foot drive, dropped a beautiful approach shot out of the sky and positioned himself within three feet of a birdie.

Then Brandon Matthews rolled his putt just outside the hole.

It was that kind of day for the Pittston Area senior in the PIAA boys’ golf championship final.

Looking green on the greens Tuesday at the same Heritage Hills Golf Course he owned during the state final a year ago, Matthews finished in an seventh-place tie in the final state standings with a two-day total of 152.

"If I had the putter working today, I think I could have won this thing," Matthews said.

Instead, he had to settle for winning a second straight state medal.

Matthews accomplished that with a fabulous finish - and by getting a little of the fortune that had deserted him all day.

His drive off the 17th hole landed in the No. 6 tee box, giving him a clear shot overlooking the green.

Matthews didn’t miss, chipping his approach shot within a couple feet of the hole.

Then he sank the birdie for a three-stroke hole that ultimately earned him a medal.

"I felt like I knew I had to do something," Matthews said. "That was a very big opportunity."

Finally, a bit of fate played his way.

For too long Tuesday, it went the other way for Matthews, who wound up 10 strokes over par for the two days and six strokes in back of the 146 that crowned this year’s state champion Garrett Browning of West Allegheny, who also won a state title in 2009.

A string of near-misses smack in the middle of play cost Matthews any hope of repeating his PIAA title.

His near-miss of a three-foot putt following his sky-shot approach on No. 9 forced Matthews to settle for par on the hole. The same fate awaited Matthews on No. 10, where he rolled a potential birdie put just over the outside lip of the hole - which left him pounding his club into the ground.

Then everything went haywire on him on No. 11.

He badly sliced his second shot behind a row of trees on the par-5 hole, then chipped out straight into the rough. Matthews took two drops to get to the green, then missed a gimme putt for him and finished the hole with a double-bogey.

He flipped out a bit over it, flipping his putter in disgust.

"It’s more frustrating than you know when I walked off the 11th green," Matthews said. "I’d just missed three putts in a row, that (if I made) I could have been one-under (for the day). And I could win this tournament."

Instead, he was forced to win a spot in the top 10.

Matthews did that with solid driving and a few nifty approach shots that salvaged a score of 77 for the day - six-over for the final round.

"It’s difficult to win anything," said Matthews, who’s won most of the major tournaments he’s played during his high school career. "If I had the putter for two days, I would have been right there in contention. (Finishing) top-10 in the state (while) not playing well, that’s pretty good. I’m out there having fun, no matter what happens. Doesn’t matter whether I’m playing bad or playing great.

"Hopefully, I’ve got a great career ahead of me."

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