Matthews state's best golfer for 2nd time

By: Frankie Frisco
Published: Thursday, June 18, 2020
Arkansas golfer Brooke Matthews tees off on the ninth hole during the final round of the Arkansas State Golf Association's Women's Stroke Play Championship on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, at Chenal Country Club in Little Rock.
Photo by Thomas Metthe
Arkansas golfer Brooke Matthews tees off on the ninth hole during the final round of the Arkansas State Golf Association's Women's Stroke Play Championship on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, at Chenal Country Club in Little Rock.

— A tap-in putt of less than a foot is the easiest shot for any golfer to make. Missing one can mean the difference between winning and losing a tournament.

On Wednesday, Brooke Matthews of Rogers didn’t let one of those hiccups ruin her attempt to win her second consecutive Arkansas State Golf Association’s Women’s Stroke Play Championship at the Chenal Country Club Founders Course in Little Rock.

Matthews, who plays collegiately at the University of Arkansas, came into the round tied for the lead with Casey Ott of Conway, but she seized a three-stroke lead after the opening three holes. Ott, who plays at the University of Kentucky, cut the lead to two after the seventh hole and got new life when Matthews banged her tap-in par attempt off the back of the par-4 8th for her lone bogey of the day.

Despite following with her worst tee shot of the round at the par-5 ninth hole, Matthews rebounded with a par (with Ott making bogey) on her way to a 5-under 67 and seven-stroke victory over Ott.

Matthews said the short miss was a wake-up call.

“I obviously wasn’t happy missing that,” Matthews said. “That’s something that shouldn’t happen. I knew I just had to stay focused as much as I could because I knew there were a lot of holes out there that I could still birdie.”

After Ott trimmed the deficit to one, she blistered a long drive down the center of the fairway at the ninth, then watched Matthews push her tee shot right near a cluster of trees. The advantageous position then turned against Ott, who hit her next two shots on slopes to the right side of the green. Her delicate fourth shot ran 15 feet past the hole leading to bogey. Matthews found a green-side bunker with her second, ran her third 12 feet feet by the cup, then got up and down for par to regain her two-stroke lead at the turn.

“I hate that she missed that tap-in then hit a rough drive,” Ott said. “I thought I could catch up, but I think even though that missed tap-in helped me, it helped her a little bit, too. [It] made her a little angry because she was 4 under after that.”

The two birdied the par-5 12th, but Matthews strung together birdies on the next two holes with an 8-foot putt at the par-4 13th and a 2-footer at the par-4 14th to take a four-stroke advantage. Ott missed from 8 feet at the 14th, but got a stroke back at the 15th when she made a downhill 18-foot birdie.

Ott’s chances vanished at the par-5 16th when her approach shot found a green-side bunker, then further short-game futility led to her making a triple bogey 8 to put her seven strokes off the lead. She finished with a 2-over 74 and in second place for the tournament, seven shots behind Matthews.

“I was fortunate to string together a few birdies there on 12, 13 and 14, so I was feeling pretty good,” Matthews said. “I still knew it’s golf and anything can happen. If anyone can fire off a bunch of birdies, it’s going to be Casey.

“Casey and I have played a lot of golf together. We’ve played partner events, and I’ve caddied for her, too. Definitely good friends before competition opponents.”

With the pair tied at 4 under after Tuesday’s opening round, Matthews came out firing, making birdies on the opening two holes. Ott’s bogey at the par-3 third gave her longtime friend a three-stroke lead before she got to within two strokes after a birdie at the par-4 seventh.

“She got off to a good start, and I was just trying to be patient with myself, make some birdies,” Ott said. “I wish I could have stayed under par for the day, but I got a little aggressive and hit a bad shot on 16.”

The tournament was played with social-distancing guidelines in place, meaning the players couldn’t touch the flag stick, had to ride one to a cart and were allowed two walking spectators. It didn’t stop the players from trying to enjoy themselves. Ott gave her and Matthews’ playing partner Katelyn Dunstan a low-five when Dunstan made a 15-foot birdie at the 11th on her way to a 2-over 74 and a tie for third overall.

When play slowed on the back nine, Matthews, Ott and Dunstan showered the penultimate group of Josie Roberson, Gracen Blount and Bailey Dunstan with cheers for their tee shots on No. 13.

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