On the practice tee, a day before the Lake Erie Charity Classic where hes poised to take the top spot on the money list, Matteson methodically drives one ball after another at a pinpointed target. Each shot is practiced as part of a solution. He keeps one low as if to cut under the wind, he practices his draw around a potential hazard, he fades it ever so slightly to the exact distance.
Engineering is about having a problem and figuring out how to break it down. You need to come up with a game plan, a solution, and execute it, he says.
Matteson approaches golf the same way. In an engineering sense, he comes up with a cost-effective way to play each new course. For instance this week on the upper course at Peak n Peak resort, the 17th hole tees are set back making the green unreachable in two. Mattesons strategy is to play up the 12th fairway instead. Sometimes you have to go off the beaten path to play for birdie. A lot of it is seeing what youve got that week. Im very good at strategy.
Matteson was raised in the soft hills of Anderson County Tennessee and swung his first golf club at age seven. His dad brought a set home just to see if his two boys would take to the sport. Within weeks they were hitting balls into the sweet old ladys yard next door. She would keep all the balls in a bucket for us so we could go get em and hit them back in her yard again, says Matteson.
Fellow Nationwide Tour member Bubba Watson played golf at the University of Georgia against Matteson, who was the first Georgia Tech player to win the NCAA individual championship in 2002. We didnt like each other Watson laughs, quickly admitting that Troy was a really nice guy. You can tell he loves the numbers, he wants everything to be precise. He definitely wont hit until hes ready.
Matteson admits to loving not only the numbers, but the game. He hasnt missed a single week on tour, finishing in the top ten in eight out of 13 starts.
Not a whole lot of pranks and jokes and what not with him, says Watson. He probably watches the news more than I do.
One thing everyone can agree on is that Matteson is a quiet, reserved guy. Kip Henley of Big Break II fame had the chance to play with Matteson at the Chattanooga Celebrity Skins Game in May. Everything about Troy is understated but his golf game, says Kip. He is the quietest person youll meet, so focused, goes about his work. Kip wrote on his web site journal for The Golf Channel that Troy is quieter than a mouse peeing on cotton.
Matteson was eager to explain why he keeps things cool - its about respect. Im a young player out here, says Matteson, Others have played out here for years. I hold a lot of respect for the older guys. I havent earned the right to say a whole lot. Matteson says he will let his playing speak for itself.
But you watch, Kip Henley announces. Hell be in the top 50 in three years, you watch.
Jason Gore, who had his own taste of big time pressure at the U.S. Open, agrees, Hes the perfect player for the (PGA) Tour, says Gore. Very serious about his golf.
Matteson, not one to get excited, has taken his dramatic success in stride. He says the main reason hes risen so fast, from 52nd in his rookie year 2004, to seond this year, is that he found his comfort zone. The first year was tough, he says I was a little lost/ Everything is new, you dont know where you are when youre visiting a new town every week.
With that added comfort comes confidence. Ive become a little better putter, hit the ball better and all those parts add up. Matteson says that he and his wife Shauna who tours with him every week, are thrilled with the unique experience of traveling the country together. The two had their 2nd anniversary on June 21. Shauna has even learned to navigate the 36 and a half foot RV they drive to each tournament.
Golf analysts compare Mattesons stride this year to Zach Johnsons record year in 2003. The ever-humble Matteson shrugs it off. I dont know if its quite at that level, Ive got a long way to go. He says he wishes that Chris Couch were playing this week, the current Nationwide money leader Couch has a PGA Tour exemption this week. Matteson doesnt want to take over No. 1 without the top guy even playing. Its kind of like winning on a forfeit. Its fun to compete but I hope he plays great this week, says Matteson.
Although his PGA Tour card is pretty much in the bag, Matteson doesnt know quite what to expect next year. He says hed just like to become a consistent player on the big tour, but he admits, As time passes your goals jump up a little bit. Hopefully in two or three years Ill be able to say I want to win a tournament on the PGA Tour.
Troy Matteson's Bio
Full Coverage - Lake Erie Charity Classic at Peek n Peak Resort