Mattie Purgahn, swings her “Big Dog” like a pro

Published 5:02 pm Monday, May 15, 2017

By Mike Louivere

The Orange Leader

Southeast Texas is a region well known in the sports world. There have been numerous athletes from the area that have gone to the professional leagues. Some gained notice in high school, and some in college. There is a diminutive young lady that is posed to hit the wonderful world of golf. She is already making a name for herself in the two youth leagues she plays in.

Mattie Purgahn, a student at Little Cypress Elementary, is only nine years old, but has been playing tournament golf for nearly half her life. Mattie is a natural athlete that has the interest and drive to be competitive in her league tournaments.

She plays in the US Kids League and the South Texas PGA Junior League. Mattie started golf very young. At the age of about three she was following her dad, Matt, as he played golf. “I started out just holding the flag for my dad, then he started letting me drive the golf cart, then he bought me a set of clubs”, said Mattie. The rest, as they say, is history.

Matt bought Mattie a set of “baby clubs” and let her start hitting the ball along with him. Mattie was a natural with a smooth swing, even at her early age. She showed an interest in playing in the local youth golf tournaments that are conducted in the summer at courses in Orange and Beaumont. At age six, she joined the STPGA Jr. League and began playing five hole tournaments. She played in those tournaments for two years and then moved up to the next level of play. She now plays nine hole tournaments that are set with par 3 holes at 100 yards, par 4 holes, at 250 yards, and par four holes that are 320 yards long. Both the US Kids and the STPGA Jr. tournaments are set at these yardages.

Last fall Mattie won the US Kids tournament in Lafayette, Louisiana. This spring she won the tournament in Houston, Texas which qualified her to play in the US Kids Texas Open which will be played at Horseshoe Bay Country Club in Austin, Texas on May 14. “This is a big tournament with kids from all over, as near as Austin and as far away as Kansas and Colorado”, said Matt.

The next tournament after that on Mattie’s schedule will be the Texas Invitational at the Brookhaven Country Club in Dallas, Texas. In July she will attend the first qualifying round of the Drive, Putt, and Chip competition. The first round will be held in Alexandria, Louisiana. The qualifying rounds then move to the TPC course at New Orleans, then to the final round at the Woodlands in Houston. The winner of this round will then go to Augusta, Georgia, where the winners of the regional qualifying rounds will compete on Sunday, April 1, 2018. They will compete the day before the Masters Golf Tournament begins. The young golfers will be on the same course where the professionals will play the Masters tournament.

When asked what she likes best about playing the tournaments, her answer is short and to the point; “Winning”, said Mattie. She is a tough competitor, she has the drive to win, but is OK when she does not. Mattie competes in as many as 25 tournaments a year. Her usual placement is in one of the top three slots. She has quite a collection of medals and trophies from her wins.

Golf is not her only interest; she also plays soccer and has been a dance student for several years. With dance lessons three times per week, soccer practice about two times, and soccer games on Saturdays, there is not much time left to practice golf, but she manages. “I’m probably not going to play as much soccer this year as I did last year. I’ve got some golf tournaments…..”, said Mattie.

Mattie says the best part of her game is her drive. “I can usually get to the green pretty good”, said Mattie. “Mattie has a smooth swing, she looks great when she drives”, said her mother, Jodi. Matt has charge of the golf game and Jodi is the chauffeur, doing the driving to get Mattie to the dance studio, soccer field, and to the golf course for practice with Matt.

The walking on the golf courses is not a favorite of Mattie’s. As a result, her dad bought a golf cart with a fold down seat over a side wheel, so she can rest between shots. She does like the travel and playing against new people. “I like the challenge of playing against different people”, said Mattie.

Mattie is a girl with a great sense of humor. She has pet names for some of her clubs. She calls the driver “Big Dog”, “Porky” is the 3 wood, her hybrid club is “Roughy”, and to top it all off she has “Tom and Jerry” wood covers. She also likes colors, her clubs are or have been pink, orange, red, white, blue, and black for a driver.

When she reaches age 12 the length of play will increase to the full 18 holes and the yardages will also increase. Will she always play golf? “I think I will always play, I like it”, said Mattie.

“Mattie is different from her sister, Briana, and I. She does not like shopping. She would rather be outside doing things like her golf and soccer”, said Jodi.

As young as she is, Mattie’s ability as a golfer has been noticed. Bruce Lietzke, the professional golfer who grew up in Beaumont and went on to win several major titles, once saw Mattie play and complemented her on her ability to hit the chip shots. The coach of the Louisiana PGA Jr. League team has invited Mattie to play with the Louisiana team. If she decides to play with them, she would be playing at a level above her age group. No one, including Mattie, expects that to be a problem.

During the tournaments she plays in, Mattie has a support group. Dad Matt, mother Jodi, and sister, Briana, can be seen wearing shirts that have “Team Purgahn” on the back. One day you may be watching an LPGA tournament on television and see those three shirts in the gallery following Mattie.