Brandon Matthews played well enough to make the U.S. Open - again.
Until he had to putt.
Matthews, of Dupont and a graduate of Pittston Area High School, missed qualifying for this year’s U.S. Open at a sectional qualifying tournament on Monday at Old Oaks Country Club and Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y. after firing a 143 over two rounds.
Matthews shot a 2-over 72 on Old Oaks in his first round. He followed that up with an even-par 71 at Century, and missed a shot to play in the 114th U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C. later this month.
Matthews’ putter hindered him all day, especially on his first 18 at Old Oaks. The Temple sophomore hit 15 of 18 greens, but threw in four three-putts in the first round to settle for his 72.
“In those first 18 holes, I haven’t hit it that well in a while,” he said. “I hit a lot of shots close. I just could not convert. It was just a struggle with the putter. That’s really all it was.”
Matthews finished his first round by three-putting No. 18 at Old Oaks for a par 5. He made the 550-yard hole in two, by hitting a 4-iron from 230 yards, uphill and into the wind. His putt from about 50 feet was left 10 feet short.
“Greens were tough,” he said. “But, for me, there is no excuse to putt that bad. It was all over the place.”
Between rounds, Matthews found himself sitting in 22nd place out of the 80 golfers — the top four players would advance to the U.S. Open. However, the field would begin to come back to him, eventually leading him to have a chance to make up some ground.
Matthews started on the 10th hole at Century in his second round. After making par in the first five holes, Matthews reached the par-5 15 in two. He two-putted for a birdie to put himself at 1-over for the tournament. At that time, he was just a shot away from one of the top four spots.
However, after three straight pars, Matthews went to the front nine looking to build on his birdie at 15. Instead, he made bogey on the next two holes, dropping him back to 3-over for the tournament.
On No. 1, a bad lie in the rough led to a lay up on the par 4, leading to bogey. On the second hole, Matthews found another bad lie, which ended in a three-putt.
“The first two holes (at Century) were tough,” he said. “I got a little unlucky with lies. I thought I hit a great shot and it didn’t release. Otherwise, it was just a tough two holes to start the back nine.”
After stuffing a 9-iron to about five feet on hole six, Matthews made the putt. He would need the momentum heading to the final three holes.
The Wyoming Valley player ended up playing the last three holes at even-par to miss.
“I hit it great,” he said. “I hit it good enough to get in the U.S. Open. I hit it good enough to win this thing by 3 or 4 shots. If I just hit putts on line, I would have been all right.”
Fran Quinn, of Holden, Massachusetts, and Rob Oppenheim, of Orlando, Florida, each finished the day at 3-under-par 138 and will advance to the U.S. Open. Also, James Renner, of Orlando, Florida, (139) and Matthew Dobyns, of Lake Success, New York, (141) qualified for the Open.
NCAA Division 1 individual champion Cameron Wilson, along with Web.com Tour professional Jamie Lovemark are the two alternates.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen also finished with 143. Gavin Hall, the player who beat Matthews in last year’s sectionals, shot a 145.
Matthews qualified for this year’s sectionals by being a quarterfinalist at last year’s U.S. Amateur Championship.
Next, he will head to the British Amateur Championship, a tournament that dates back to 1885. He also has a few smaller tournaments coming up in Northeastern Pennsylvania, including one that’s pretty important.
He and his father, Ted, will play in next week’s Founder’s Classic at Emanon Country Club.
“That will be a nice weekend with dad,” Matthews said. “That will be fun.”