Bethel Park native Mathews turns putters into art
Ray Mathews Jr. has merged function with form in the current display at the Sewickley public library.
A series of United States Golf Association approved glass golf putters made by Mathews will be available for public viewing through Aug. 15.
A glass artist living in Connecticut, Mathews still has strong ties to Pittsburgh. His dad, Ray Mathews, was a wide receiver for the Steelers from 1951-1959 and was named to the franchise's 75th anniversary Legends team.
Not only is his dad responsible for his ties to Pittsburgh, he was also the inspiration that led to the creation of Mathews' glass putters.
After retiring, Mathews Sr. spent a lot of his time playing golf, and Mathews Jr. would join him for a week each summer to play. One summer, when his dad called him to plan their golf outing, Mathews didn't know how to break his bad news.
“I said, ‘Dad, I've got a lot of glass to make. I'm not sure if I can make it,' ” Mathews said. “His comment was, ‘It's too bad you can't make a golf club out of glass.' ”
The comment flipped a switch for Mathews. He had been working on paper weights and realized he could use that same basic shape to for the head of a putter. Once he figured out where to insert the shaft, he sent the prototype to his dad in 1999.
“The first putter I sent him was pretty ugly,” Mathews said. “It was just straight clear glass. I put these grooves on the bottom of the putter, and when I submitted that to the United States Golf Association, they said it didn't conform to the rule because you could see through the glass and see the lines on the bottom of the putter.”
Mathews made the necessary adjustments to get his putters approved by the USGA for tournament play, including using a True Temper 90-degree double bent shaft with a USAA hand grip. His dad then suggested he patent his design and begin selling it.
Customized mallet- and blade-style putters are available for purchase at glassputter.com starting at $185.95.
Between his putters and the rest of his glass art, Mathews' work has not allowed him to spend as much time on the green as he would like.
“I love to play, but I just don't have that time if you know what I mean,” Mathews said. “I'm trying to make a living as an artist, but every time I do get out I've got one of my putters in the bag, and I've become a better putter since I started manufacturing them.”
Mathews Sr. now lives in a retirement home in Mercer, which brings his son back to the area a few times each year.
In the display, two of the putters are black and gold as a tribute to Mathews' Pittsburgh roots.
“I still consider Pennsylvania my home,” Mathews said. “You can move me out of Pittsburgh, but I don't think you can get Pittsburgh out of my blood.”