Amateur Brandon Matthews wins Philly Open for second time in three years
2015 Philadelphia Open champ Brandon Matthews (GAP photo)
2015 Philadelphia Open champ Brandon Matthews (GAP photo)

FLOURTOWN, Pa. — For the second time in three years, Temple University’s Brandon Matthews soared above Philadelphia’s most challenging field in championship form. A rising senior, Matthews overcame 77 other top professionals and amateurs, the mettle testing Wissahickon Course (par 70, 6,975 yards) of Philadelphia Cricket Club and menacing winds to finish at 3-under-par 137 (66-71) for the 36 holes. Josh Rackley, a Gulph Mills Golf Club assistant professional, placed second at 1 under. He secured low professional honors and the $7,000 top prize that goes with it.

Matthews, again, added to Temple’s recent remarkable string of Open successes. The last five Champions all called North Broad Street home. Andrew Mason won in 2011-12, Matthews in 2013 and Matt Teesdale in 2014.

“I’m happy to get the win. [Philadelphia Cricket Club] is unbelievable,” said the 20-year-old Blue Bell Country Club member. “Coach [Brian Quinn] does such a great job with us. I’m just glad I can be part of all this, to be along for the ride. To have him on my side is something special.”

Rackley and Matthews set the pace from the get go on Wednesday. Rackley opened with a new competitive course-record 65, 5 under, in his first round. A 20-foot chip-in birdie on No. 18 (par 4, 487 yards) from the right greenside side rough provided a spectacular finish.

Matthews only trailed by a shot heading into Round 2 despite Rackley’s heroics. Matthews posted an equally impressive 66, 4 under, with three birdies in his last six holes. Strong play considering it was Matthews’ first trip of the Flourtown layout.

Rackley and Matthews started mid-wave in the afternoon at 1:30 p.m. and 1:40 p.m., respectively.

Almost immediately into the second round, the Championship became a Matthews’ coronation.

Leaky ball-striking by Rackley led to a bogey and double bogey in his first four holes. By the time both players made the turn, Matthews, of Dupont, Pa., held a three-shot lead.

Billy Stewart, an assistant professional at The ACE Club, registered a mid-round charge with six birdies in nine holes to squeak into second place, temporarily. Stewart, however, had two late bogeys and Rackley recovered with a birdie on No. 6 (par 4, 476 yards) to forge back ahead for low pro honors. He knocked a downwind 9-iron from 155 yards to eight feet.

Matthews, in the meantime, carded six straight pars on his back nine to erase any doubts about the ultimate outcome. He bogeyed No. 7 (par 5, 554 yards) with a nuclear wedge from 85 yards but finished with three more pars (players started on No. 11 for logistical purposes) to close out his second Open win.

In 2013, Matthews defeated Stewart in a four-hole playoff. This year, no extra time was needed.

“I didn’t falter at the end,” said Matthews of the biggest difference between this victory and the one prior. “I know I made a bogey coming in but that was because the wind shut off. It wasn’t because of a bad swing. I hit some great shots coming in. The last two holes I hit the shots exactly where I was looking. I hit the putts exactly where I was looking. The way I performed down the stretch is really nice to see.”

Rackley, 25, of King of Prussia, Pa., is in his third year at Gulph Mills. In late May, he won the Haverford Philadelphia PGA Classic and the $100,000 first-place prize. He also competed in the recent PGA Professional National Championship at Cricket Wissahickon where he tied for 31st, good for $3,700.

Defending champion Matt Teesdale of Commonwealth National Golf Club tied for 13th at 8-over par.

This is Cricket’s eighth time as an Open site, the first since 1962. The first ever Open was staged in 1903 on Cricket’s St. Martins Course.

ABOUT THE Philadelphia Open

Format: 36-hole individual gross stroke play, two day event. With a cut after the first day to the low 60 and ties.

Eligibility: The field will consist of professionals who are active members of the Philadelphia Section PGA in good standing (the A-4 classification is not eligible), Head Professionals of GAP Member Clubs, Assistant Professionals of member clubs who are active members of the New Jersey Section PGA and amateurs who are members of member clubs and have handicap index of 7.0 or less. Non-exempt players must prequalify.

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