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Playing the game he loves

For some it’s playing football, for some it’s playing baseball or basketball, but for Andalusia native Ralph Mathews, it’s all about playing the game he loves — golf.

At the tender age of 9, Mathews started playing golf, and continued to do so in high school at AHS, where he graduated in 1976. While at AHS, he won the Alabama state junior champinoship at 15.

Then, Mathews won a golfing scholarship to play at Florida State University, where he met his wife, Wendy.

Now at 51, Mathews is showing no signs of slowing down as this past weekend, he won the 13th State Senior Amateur Championship at the Country Club of Brewton with a final round of 72.

“It was exciting, and it was a lot fun,” he said of the tournament.

On the last day of the three-day tournament, Mathews said he did not get off to a good start.

“I double-bogeyed the third hole, and the guy playing with me — Scott Johnston — made the turn (at the ninth hole) and picked up two shots on me.”

Then, Mathews said by the 12th hole they both were tied. Mathews birdied the 13th hole and Johnston bogeyed No. 14.

“I got a little bit of a cushion there,” Mathews said.

At the 16th hole, Johnston made a 60-foot eagle putt, that put both back in a tie. Mathews parred 16, and held the one-shot lead. With a birdie on 18th he sealed the win.

Mathews said he won the tournament when he made a second round par of 67.

“That kind of set the tone for me,” he said. “I shot a 67, and that gave me enough of a cushion.

“Playing with a lead — I don’t think anybody even when you watch the pros, it’s hard to keep the lead. I’ve always done better when I’m behind or tied, not when I have a two-shot lead.”

In addition, Mathews’ father, Max, played in the Super Seniors division of the tournament in Brewton.

“Had we been able to pull that (the win) off, it would have been exciting,” he said. His father finished in a playoff.

When asked if there was anybody who really made a positive influence in his life playing golf, Mathews said it was due to a golf professional that was prominent in Alabama in the 1970s.

“There were two brothers here — David and Bill Anthony — and they had an older brother, named Richard, and he was the best golfer in Alabama,” he said. “He was the man. You didn’t play in any tournament in Alabama where he was not favored to win. The exposure I got by being able to hang around with him kind of made me want to go and play golf in college. That was the biggest key for me in my aspirations to play at the college level.”

After college, Mathews said his biggest win came in 1983 at the Jim Lee Open in Tallahassee, where he played as an amateur in a professional tournament.

“It was very exciting,” he said. “There were a lot of good players.”

Mathews said he will be playing in a state senior match in Auburn this August, and will partner up with David Hancock of Greenville to defend their Senior Four-Ball Championship title in October.

Mathews has a mother, Sandra; a daughter, Jennifer, who is in law school in Boston; and a son, David, who is studying engineering at Auburn.