That Matthews was even in contention to win that PGA Tour Latinoamerica tournament was an achievement in itself. A Temple grad who turned pro in 2016, Matthews made just four cuts in 21 events on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019. He made just $8,215.
Given his extraordinary physical gifts, Matthews was disappointed. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Matthews annihilates the ball. So, he engaged swing coach, Dale Gray, last summer. Gray, an Australian based in New York City, is a Hank Haney disciple, having studied under him in Dallas for more than 10 years, including during Haney’s six-year stint with Tiger Woods.
Gray first met Matthews on the range at the Country Club of Scranton last year and was instantly blown away by his speed.
“We’re talking a swing speed of 130 mph, ball speed of 190 mph and an average carry distance of 350 yards. I was gobsmacked,” Gray said. “There was so much raw ability that you just can’t teach.
“The swing changes I suggested were about getting rid of his big miss; he used to have a big block to the right. He used to take the club back way on the inside, roll the face open and the club would get across the line at the top. To compensate, his arms would outrace his body turn and so he’d re-route the club in transition. He had an early extension and would almost stand up out of his posture through the hitting area.
“At 130 miles an hour, when you miss one, it’s going to shoot a long way off line. So, we’ve worked on getting the club more on plane and a bit more laid-off at the top, to give him some depth and width. Now, he can use his long levers to his advantage.”
The changes began to pay off on the Latinoamerica circuit during the fall. Matthews tied for fifth at the Argentina Classic and then was runner-up in Argentina.
“From how I was playing to how I’m playing now, it’s night and day,” Matthews said.
Now, he’s hoping he’s got all the tools to compete with the PGA Tour elite at the testing Bay Hill next week. With his length, Matthews feels he could get after the 7,381-yard Orlando-area course.
“It sets up for me, but you have to respect Bay Hill and take advantage of some holes and back off others,” Matthews said.
“One good week can change a career. If I can put my absolute focus into next week, I think we could make it the start of a great career.”
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