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From Vienna to the PGA

Vienna resident makes professional golf debut at Capital Open last weekend.

Fred Funk, a 22-year professional golfer who earned more than $2 million last year, made his birdie putt on Hole No. 14 of the FBR Capital Open and the full gallery erupted. As Funk finished the short walk to the next tee, Vienna's Troy Matteson, 23, drove his tee shot 300 yards, just feet away from the spot where Funk stood moments before. Hundreds applauded once again.

A hole-in-one on a par-four hole has been recorded just once in the history of any tournament on the PGA Tour. Matteson, who earned his first $9,600 in professional golf this week, came feet away from the feat in his professional golf debut.

"I'm just having a wonderful time — this is just a blessing, I think it's a dream," said Matteson's mother, Lucy Steele, of Vienna.

Steele and her husband, John Steele, Matteson's step-father, walked seven miles and 18 holes with their son each of the four days of the tournament held each year in Potomac, Md.

"We told him he's been overabundantly blessed," said Lucy Steele, the assistant to the senior pastor at the McLean Presbyterian Church.

"I've got to tell you, I was pretty nervous on the first tee," Matteson said. "That was as nervous as I'd been in my entire life."

Matteson, the 2003 NCAA East Region champion and 2002 NCAA champion, finished his collegiate golf career at Georgia Tech just one week before the FBR Capital Open. The 23-year-old, who graduated with honors in civil engineering, received a special invitation by tour directors to play in the Capital Open, the only PGA Tour stop in the Washington area. Matteson finished 59th out of 156 golfers in his professional debut.

"I think the only person probably more nervous than me was my mom," Matteson said, of his first tee shot at the 10th hole on Thursday, June 5.

"I told him, 'Honey, if you had one-sixteenth of my butterflies you would have never even been up to the tee,’" Lucy Steele said.

BY MAKING the 78-player cut after the first two days, Matteson advanced past Kemper Open champions Tom Scherrer (2000), Steve Stricker (1996), Mark Brooks (1994) and Grant Waite (1993), as well as long-time pros John Daly and Phil Mickelson, who were all cut from the field after two rounds.

Matteson (289 — 69,71,75,74) also finished the four-day tournament five shots ahead of 2001 Kemper Open champion Frank Lickliter II. Matteson was tied for 24th out of 156 golfers after two rounds.

Matteson's work ethic is one of the reasons he's made it to the professional level, according to one of his Georgia Tech coaches.

"This guy, if he doesn't play well, he goes to the lighted range until 11:30 at night and hits the ball for three, four, five hours. He jokes around and says, 'Just got to get better, just got to get better,'" said Brandon Goethals, Matteson's caddie at the Open and the assistant coach of Matteson's Georgia Tech golf team. "Other guys on the team kind of look at him like, 'This guy's a psycho,’ but he really puts that much effort into it and that's why he's out here playing the PGA Tour."

Matteson invited his college assistant coach to caddie for him after he was invited to play by tournament directors.

"My goal was to come here, get adjusted and really play one shot at a time," said Matteson. "You can't let scores, what's going on the scoreboard and what's going on with people around you affect you and what you're doing."

Matteson won $9,675 at this year's FBR Capital Open. The winner Rory Sabbatini (270, 14-under-par) from South Africa, won $810,000.

"Getting invited to an event immediately after you're eligible to play… is, of course, exceptional," said John Steele, a Long & Foster real estate agent based out of McLean. "This was kind of an ideal situation to play here where he has a family, a basis of support, and some knowledge of the course."

The other three rookies playing their first or second PGA Tour event — D.J. Trahan, Kevin Na and Nick Watney — were all cut after two rounds of play.

TIGER WOODS, Phil Mickelson, and Charles Howell III will forever be linked with Matteson, the 2002 NCAA men's golf champion. Each professional golfer won a NCAA title during their college careers.

Mickelson, who earned more than $4 million in 2002 on the PGA Tour, didn't make the cut at the 2003 Capital Open, and Matteson finished the four rounds tied with Howell III at five-over-par.

Matteson, a 2003 First Team All American, won the country's collegiate title as a junior in 2002, the same year he helped Georgia Tech win the national team championship. He was the first Georgia Tech golfer to win three tournaments in a row and the Golf Coaches Association of America awarded him the 2003 Byron Nelson award based on his collegiate golf career, his academic career, his character and integrity.

While Matteson didn't garner the crowds that gathered around Funk or the leaders at the end of the tournament, he did attract a following who came to see him play or interested people who found out he's local.

"I saw he's from Vienna, my office is in Reston. I wanted to figure out what makes the pros so good," said Wayne Evans, of Germantown.

"Hey, that's the local guy. Hey, he's doing well," said another spectator to his friends as they walked by Matteson, Todd Fischer and Matthew Goggin on the 13th fairway on Friday.

Matteson hopes to gather more followers as well as more sponsors as he continues as a pro. He's already sponsored by Titlelist and Bombardier Sky Jet.

"It's the coolest thing ever. I've been to the Kemper one other time, this time is so much better," said Patrick Durham, 16, a family friend of the Steele's who watched Matteson on Thursday and Sunday. "It's an experience just to know someone that has come this far."

"It's totally cool to see someone you know play and walk the whole course with him," said Arter Hughes, 13, Durham's step-brother, walking along the 15th fairway on Sunday. "Whenever I see him, I want to go out and play."