Golfer forgives fan with Down syndrome who yelled during crucial shot

Brandon Matthews put aside a difficult loss for a moment that he said was "bigger than golf."

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

Professional golfer Brandon Matthews was locked in a sudden-death playoff at a tournament in Argentina on Sunday when he heard a yelp from the gallery in the middle of a crucial putt.

Matthews, 25, was distracted by the sound and missed the 8-foot birdie putt, which cost him the Visa Open de Argentina title in Buenos Aires — and the exemption to play in next year's British Open that comes with it.

"I thought someone had done it intentionally,'' he told GolfChannel.com. "I was frustrated. Really, I was in shock that that just happened."

The tournament director later apologized for the outburst during the missed putt, which allowed Colombian golfer Ricardo Celia to clinch the victory. He then told Matthews the sound came from a fan with Down syndrome who had gotten excited.

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The Pennsylvania native immediately forgot about the frustrating loss and asked to meet the fan.

Once the two were brought together, the missed putt seemed like a distant memory, as Matthews gave the unidentified man a big hug and signed a glove for him.

The moment was captured in a series of photos posted by PGA Tour Latinonamerica, which ran the event.

"I gave him a hug and I asked him, 'Hey, are you doing OK? Are you having fun?''' Matthews said. "I just wanted to make sure he was enjoying himself, that he had no hard feelings, that he didn’t feel bad about what happened.

"I didn’t want anyone to be mad at him. I didn’t want him to be mad at himself. I wanted to make sure he knew that I wasn’t mad. That’s all I wanted to do."

The sister of Matthews' best friend growing up had Down syndrome, and his mother also managed group homes and worked with people with special needs, according to Golfchannel.com.

"I have a soft spot in my heart for it,'' he said. "Those are really special people. I felt so terrible that I was even upset. I just wanted to make sure that he didn’t feel bad."

Missing out on a spot in a prestigious major tournament like the British Open stung, but Matthews was able to put it into perspective.

"Some things are bigger than golf, and this was one of them,'' he said.

It's the latest heartwarming moment involving a professional golfer and a special needs fan this year.

Reigning U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland thanked fellow golfer Amy Bockerstette, who has Down syndrome, for inspiring him to his breakthrough win in June.