Osage teen finds constructive outlet in golf

Some things just come naturally, for Matthew Free it was golf.

One day he decided he wanted to tag along with his older brother and dad to the golf course.

“I’d just go with him, walk around and play with him,” Free said. “I was really young, probably eight or nine.”

He played mostly in the summer, but started to pick up the pace when he started high school.

Free, 18, Osage and a recent Pawhuska High School graduate, said he realized his knack for golf and decided to expound on it.

“Just had a natural act for it,” he said. “I liked it a lot in high school, had some success and just stuck with it.”

As a freshman at Pawhuska High School he qualified for the state tournament, and again when he was a sophomore, both individually and with his team.

But at the end of his sophomore year the local Pawhuska golf course closed, leaving he and his teammates having to travel far just to get in some practices.

Free’s father, Matt Free, said the closing of the golf course made an impact on his son’s game.

“He was playing a lot when the country club here in Pawhuska closed down,” he said. “That slowed him down quite a bit.”

Free said he didn’t think much of it and eventually worked with what he had.

As a junior, Free had by far his best year.

He medaled at every tournament his junior year and qualified for the state tournament again.

He said once he matured in his game the success followed.

“I was starting to understand the game more,” he said. “How it all works, understanding when people are teaching you and knowing what they’re talking [about].”

Free and the rest of the team was under a new coach.

Monty Unruh took over the boys and girls golf program in 2009. Unruh said he didn’t have to coach Free much when he jumped on board.

“He was really good, he could hit it a long way, he could shape shots, play a cut or draw which is tough to do,” Unruh said. “He’s just good, good at everything he does, good at ping pong, everything.”

Unruh said Free is an all-around athlete who also plays basketball and football. He said Free was the leading scorer, leading rebounder and overall leader on the team.

As a senior, Free won his first regular-season tournament. He said this last season and his junior season were his best seasons overall.

He was also selected for the Annual Oklahoma Indian All-State Basketball Boys Team.

He was one of 24 boys selected to play in the games that will be held in Bartlesville in June.

This year he qualified for the state tournament and didn’t do as well as he expected. Free said he ran into a little bit of trouble putting and didn’t get the preparation he needed.

“I was a little nervous the first day, other than that I was pretty excited,” he said. “I knew enough about it, I had the experience, we just don’t have a practice course.”

Free’s parents are Matt Free and Susan Free. He is the youngest of two other siblings, one brother and one sister.

He plans to attend Oklahoma State University and has not decided on a major.

Free said he doesn’t plan to walk on to the golf team or play any college sports but will continue to play golf.

“It was fun, playing a lot of the same courses, seeing how I’ve grown and just gotten better every year,” he said. “I will definitely continue to always play, golf you can play till you’re 80 years old.”