March 14, 2002
By Simit Shah – It’s not hard to name some of the great golfers that Georgia Tech has produced over the years – David Duval. Stewart Cink. Matt Kuchar. Bryce Molder.
So who’s the heir apparent? It just might be Troy Matteson, the nation’s top-ranked collegiate golfer, according to Golfweek magazine.
The Austin, Texas native isn’t just on a roll, he’s red-hot. Some may even dare to whisper “Tiger” in his presence, but Matteson isn’t listening. He’s too busy winning tournaments – three straight, in fact, a first in Tech annals.
The last month has been unbelievable for the Yellow Jacket junior. It all started in mid-March with a one-stroke victory in the Hawaiian Taylor Made/Waikoloa Intercollegiate. Eleven days later, Matteson was atop the leaderboard again at the Puerto Rico Classic.
Matteson extended his streak last weekend at the Las Vegas Intercollegiate with a tie for first place with Florida’s Camilo Villegas, who is ranked number two in the nation.
“It’s materialized through a lot of hard work and determination,” said Matteson. “It’s happening through the things you’re supposed to be doing. All it takes is a little confidence. That makes the difference when all the other things are in place.”
What’s amazing is that Matteson had never won a collegiate tournament entering this season. He had only three top 10 finishes in 22 tournaments. His best was second place in last year’s Las Vegas Intercollegiate.
“I think the first one is the hardest one,” he said. “Once you get a win, you get more confidence. With that you feel like all you need to do is go out and play your best every week.”
“You can tell a guy that it’s not that hard to win a tournament,” added Coach Bruce Heppler. “Until you win one, you just don’t know. In his mind now, it’s not that hard anymore.”
In his three victories, Matteson fired eight subpar rounds out of nine and averaged 69.2 strokes per round, a collective 16 shots under par. For the year, he leads Tech with a stroke average of 70.58 and 14 under-par scores in 21 rounds.
While his success has been a pleasant surprise, the fact that Matteson ended up at Georgia Tech is no fluke. Growing up in a family full of engineers, Matteson narrowed his list of potential schools based on their engineering programs, while golf was a secondary concern.
Heppler knew that Matteson was a perfect fit for Tech.
“You see someone with a 1350 SAT and a 4.0 GPA that wants to be an engineer, that’s what we want,” said Heppler. “If we don’t have that, the golf is irrelevant.
“Maybe his golf was not what everyone was jumping up and down about, but when you took the golf he had played and combine that with his academic credentials, I can’t do any better.”
Matteson is majoring in civil engineering and is on track to graduate next year. He feels that his classroom experience has translated into success on the golf course.
“The technology and equipment used in golf far surpasses other sports,” said Matteson, whose step-grandfather graduated from Tech in 1926.
“You’ve got different materials that react and transfer energy differently. You have different metals and coatings. There are tons of things that relate to my materials and other classes.”
He has also learned a lot from playing with the likes of Molder and Kuchar, who captured his first PGA victory Sunday at the Honda Classic. Matteson roomed with Molder last year and had an opportunity to see his formula for success up close.
“I didn’t just learn about golf, I learned a lot about life through things that he did,” said Matteson, whose calm, focused demeanor is reminiscent of Molder.
“Bryce is the kind of guy that lives a certain way on the golf course, and he also applies that to his life. Playing well means that you’re making the right choices in not only your sport but also your leisure time, like studying. You really have to put it all together.”
Oh yeah, the only thing hotter than Matteson is his team, which has won a school-record four consecutive tournament titles. The top-ranked squad is not just winning tournaments, it is dominating them.
Their average margin of victory is 17 strokes during the current streak. The five tournaments victories this season tie a school record.
“My stepdad always told me, ‘Be humble, don’t stumble.’ I think where most teams will get overconfident, we just go out with the sense that we’re trying to play our best,” said Matteson.
“When have that mentality, you have the low round everyday. When you have the low round everyday, you don’t just win golf tournaments, you obliterate them.”
The scary thing is that Heppler thinks that Matteson and his team can get better. That’s good news with the ACC and NCAA championships looming on the horizon.
“I don’t think Troy or the team has played their best golf yet,” he said. “We’ve made quite a few mistakes and still won by large margins.”
Matteson will have four more chances to play his best this year. The Yellow Jackets play next in the Ping U.S. Collegiate Championships at Tucson, Ariz., April 5-7, followed by the ACC Championships Apr. 19-21. The NCAA East Regional tournament is May 16-18 in Roswell, Ga., followed by the NCAA Championship May 29-June 1 in Columbus, Ohio.