For 14-year-old Mt. Laurel resident Matthew Thomas, golf was always in his blood.
His grandfather Fred plays golf. His father Kevin also plays golf. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when Matthew picked up a set of clubs and began playing at the age of 9.
Today, Matthew not only plays the sport regularly, but he has become one of the better golfers his age on the South Jersey Junior Tour. He has won a pair of tournaments individually, and on July 25, he teamed up with his dad to win the tour’s Parent-Child Classic Championship at Old York Country Club. The duo shot a 67 to win the tournament by three strokes. Their score was the best across all three of the tour’s divisions.
Matthew said he didn’t think he and his dad would win entering the day. His goal was to enjoy the time he was spending with Kevin and play as best he could.
“I really enjoy playing with my dad,” Matthew said. “I play with him most of the time at practice rounds. It was just a really fun tournament.”
Kevin said Matthew played outstanding on July 25 and was the biggest reason they won the tournament.
“It meant a tremendous amount,” Kevin said about winning the tournament. “To play a round with your son is always special, but to win a tournament means a lot.”
Kevin and Matthew frequently play at Ramblewood Country Club. Kevin has coached Matthew since his son first picked up golf clubs at the age of 9 and he has been able to watch him grow.
“I started taking him down to a local chip and putt,” Kevin said. “I told him he had to improve and get better to play the bigger course.”
Matthew is not all that different from his father. Kevin also picked up golf around the same age as his son and used to shoot practice rounds with his dad.
“My dad played and I got the golf bug when I was small,” Kevin said.
When Matthew was younger, golf wasn’t his favorite sport. While he started playing golf when he was 9, he didn’t begin playing competitively until he turned 13.
“I played baseball then,” Matthew said. “That’s what I wanted to do mostly. Then I kind of switched over.”
Matthew credited his dad for helping him become a better golfer. As Matthew improved his skills, he moved up from the chip and putt course to full-size holes.
“He taught me everything with my swing,” Matthew said. “I loved playing golf. I just wanted to start playing it more.”
At 13, Matthew decided he wanted to focus on golf instead of baseball and began to play on the South Jersey Junior Tour. The move was crucial to Matthew’s improvement as a golfer.
“It was perfect for him,” Kevin said. “It’s competitive, but not a ton of pressure.”
Matthew was so successful in the future division, he moved up to the tour’s high school division in the summer of 2014.
The move to a higher division was a bit of an adjustment for Matthew. He admitted there were some nerves when he began playing against kids three to four years older than he was.
“I was nervous at first, because I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “But I’m used to it now.”
Matthew believes he has benefitted from playing tougher competition. Not only has he been forced to up his game in tournaments, but Matthew said he has learned a lot about the game just talking to the older players on the tour. He believes he is fully prepared to try out for Lenape High School’s golf team next spring.
“I don’t think it’ll be a whole lot different,” he said. “I hope that it’s kind of the same thing.”
While Matthew looks forward to playing on the high school level, he still relishes the times he gets to play with his father Kevin and grandfather Fred, who now lives in Pittsburgh. When Matthew and Kevin are able to get together with Fred, the three always try to find time to play a round and continue what is now a three generation-long family tradition.