At long last Matt Jones can relax a bit. After leaving his home in Sydney at age 18 to pursue college and pro golf in America the 34-year-old’s hard work is fully paying off. In this year filled with Aussie victories on the US PGA Tour Jones’ breakthrough win in Houston easily takes the cake as the most exciting. His playoff chip-in birdie that sealed his win over steady veteran Matt Kuchar wowed the Houston crowds, his parents back home in Sydney, and his wife Melissa at their US home in Scottsdale, Arizona.
IG recently caught up with the Joneses, and discussed their lives on Tour.
Melissa, talk about the excitement of Matty’s victory? Where were you at that moment?
“I was watching it on Shotlink holding my new baby (Savannah) at home in Scottsdale. I went crazy when he made that chip!
I screamed so loud I thought I blew out poor Savannah’s eardrums.
Of course I so badly wish I could have watched it on TV but it was still exciting.
A caddie who was watching had called Matty’s agent Mike Chizum and told him that Kuchar hit it in the water on 18 and we were probably going to go into a playoff.
And then Mike went and listened live in his car on PGA Tour radio. He got fired up when he heard about the chip-in and shouted to me over the phone. So exciting, I couldn’t believe it.”
When did you and Matt meet?
“We met in 2008 through some mutual friends and we got married in 2010. We got engaged five months later after meeting, but I was Miss Idaho at the time and you have to stay a Miss in order to compete in Miss USA. Even though we got engaged in 2010 we had a long engagement.”
What was the wedding like with his Australian family and you being an American?
“It was great. We got married in Napa Valley in California during 2012. It was hard to pick a spot to live because we’re all over the country and Matt’s family lives in Australia and my family is in California so we just picked a destination and we thought Napa Valley would be really fun.”
Where did you and Matt go on your Honeymoon?
“We had his family in town from Australia and then we all went to Vegas and entertained some the Aussies and then Matt and I went to the Bahamas for a week but I’m still waiting for my world sabbatical.”
Matt, you played in your first Open Championship in July. How much were you looking forward to it?
“It’s been a big goal of mine to play in the British Open. It always has been a big deal. Any major is a great major to play in but I think being from Australia, the British Open is pretty special and one of those that you really want to win. I had my chances in Australia at the Aussie Open to get in, I just had to par 17 and birdie 18 and I would have already qualified for the Open Championship but thankfully there were other ways to get in and plenty of golf tournaments.”
How do you assess this year so far?
“Of course the win’s been great but I haven’t had as many top finishes as I was expecting. A couple bad holes at the start of the year kept me out of a couple big top finishes that I would have liked but other than that I’m pretty happy and my game’s coming around nicely.”
How do you explain your play-off clinching chip-in to get your first PGA Tour win at Houston?
“It was an amazing shot. I walked up there and told my caddy I was going to chip it in, and from my angle it’s hard to tell if it’s going to go in or not. You don’t know if it’s going to lip out, low or high, but when I saw it disappear it’s probably the happiest I’ve been on the golf course.”
You finally made it to Augusta in April thanks to that riveting playoff win, how was that experience?
“I had the whole family out there. First time we had both daughters at a tournament.
My second daughter Savannah was born four weeks before the Masters. They all got to see me together which was pretty special. It was amazing to be able to play that golf course, it was pretty surreal to get out there and walk those fairways and those holes that all the greats before me had walked before. Especially to have my family, my parents, my golf coach, my brother Brett who caddied for me during the Par-3. It was pretty nice.”
Do you remember how old you were when you first wanted to play Augusta?
“No I don’t specifically but I was so happy I made my way there and got to that event, very special.”
From Augusta National to golf in Australia, what’s your favorite course in Australia?
“I’m a member at the Australian, where the Aussie Open is this year, that’s my favorite. I also love playing Kingston Heath. I haven’t really played a lot of golf courses in Australia. I’ve never played Royal Melbourne or Metropolitan. I came over to the states for college (Arizona State University) when I was 18 and I never got to play any of those.”
You were a first team All-American while ASU, what was the American college golf experience like?
“It was amazing. And I would recommend that to any Australian young amateur golfer who’s a good player. I would recommend coming to golf over here in the states. You learn so much more about yourself and what golf’s like travel-wise and managing time. The competition is unbelievable. You can just see the people out here playing now went to college and it was a great experience.”
You didn’t taste initial success in your first three years on the Nationwide Tour in 2007, how challenging was that?
“It was tough, it was a new experience for me. Just to get out there I was pretty pumped. But it’s good, you learn what golf’s all about, traveling, hotels, airfares, caddies, life away from your home. We live in a hotel 30-35 weeks a year. It’s something that you have to learn. The sooner you learn about that the better I think your golf will be.”
Do you feel that you really knew enough about this grind going in to turning pro?
“I did because I got off to an early start. When I left Australia I knew and my parents knew that I came over here and would live over here because this is where my job would need to be. It’s worth it. It’s a lot of hours, it’s a lot of travel, it’s a lot of sleepless nights before early tee-offs but it’s great and I really wouldn’t change anything.”
In 2010 you got to the US PGA Tour, how would you characterize your rookie season?
“It was pretty cool. I was probably a little more intimidated by being out here because I was with guys I’d idolized and watched play on TV and then when you’re out there playing against them you’re in awe of them I would say. And you don’t focus as much on your golf game because you’re watching them. Now I just don’t care who I get paired with. It’s just another golfer. That’s a good part about being out here for multiple years.
“The other thing is that we all don’t hit perfect golf shots every time as (fans are) made to believe. When you see it on TV you think that the best players hit great shots, but sometimes they hit awful shots. So it was good for me to see that in person.”
What’s it like raising two young girls in Saber Victoria (2), and Savannah (born March 2014)?
“It’s great. As soon as I finish with golf I get to be dad the rest of the day. I go home and play with my daughters and be a husband. Your priorities change a little.”
And the youngest one, Savannah, how is she doing with the Jones’ busy schedule?
“She’s good. She travels great. She just sleeps and eats. She’s a great little girl. She treats mom well.”
Will you eventually get them into golf?
“Who knows? We will see.”
Photo: Andy Browbill, PGA of Australia