|New York's Matt Dobyns Doesn't Miss a Beat at His Post After Record-Breaking 45th PGA Professional National Championship|
|A day after capturing the 45th PGA Professional National Championship, Matt Dobyns, PGA head professional at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, N.Y., was back on the lesson tee and playing in his facility's weekly "Play with the Pro" twilight event.|
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Fourteen hours after he had stunned the field in capturing the 45th PGA Professional National Championship, Matt Dobyns of Sea Cliff, N.Y., was being picked up by members of his Fresh Meadow Country Club staff Thursday, June 28, at JFK Airport.
The newly-crowned National Champion and seventh member of the Metropolitan PGA Section to hoist the Walter Hagen Cup, arrived at his home club in the aptly-title suburb of Lake Success, and showered in the assistant professional's locker room. Dobyns was on the lesson tee at 8 a.m., in plenty of time to greet the first of several students. Later that afternoon, in Fresh Meadows' weekly "Play with the Pro" twilight event, Dobyns, members of his staff, and amateur members enjoyed an afternoon round.
Dobyns, a 34-year-old native of Austin, Texas, made his splash in the national spotlight like few of his peers in The PGA of America from June 24-27, at historic Bayonet Black Horse in Seaside, Calif. He completed an improbable 72-hole run by making a four-foot birdie on the 18th green for a 2-under-par 70 and a record-breaking eight-stroke victory in the showcase event for PGA Professionals. His 13-under-par 275 total made him the eighth player in history to win the National Championship in his first attempt. He was one of 11 to finish under par, and pocketed $75,000 from a total purse of $550,000 in the Championship presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz, and OMEGA.
Dobyns capped his week by shattering Sam Snead's 41-year margin of victory record of five strokes, which he set in 1971.
"I don't know how that happened," said Dobyns. "To be mentioned in the same breath with Sam Snead in any comparison is both humbling and exciting."
Dobyns' storybook trip would never have happened had he not accepted the fact that his staff could handle club operations while he was out of town. The members at Fresh Meadow Country Club not only had confidence in Dobyns' staff, but also planned a surprise on Sunday, July 1. They covered all his National Championship expenses, and what expenses he would incur in 2013 by using the six PGA Tour exemptions gained by his victory.
"It's the biggest tournament I have ever won, and will probably be the biggest tournament I'll ever win," said Dobyns. "I'm trying to cherish each second, because it's going too quickly."
Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., who matched the low final round of 69, shared runner-up honors at 283 with Kelly Mitchum of Southern Pines, N.C., who closed with a 71.
Perry, the PGA head professional at Crane Lakes Golf Course in Port Orange, had never finished better than a share of 34th in four previous Championship visits, while Mitchum, the PGA teaching professional at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, recorded his fourth top-10 finish in seven appearances.
Mitchum, 41, said that he had more than a few opportunities to see Dobyns' talent up close.
"Matt played so solid. We were all playing for second," said Mitchum. "Matt and I played nine holes in a practice round Friday, and then to get paired with the Champion in the final round is pretty ironic."
Three-time PGA Professional National Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., finished with a 73, and was alone in fourth at 284. "I fought hard and made it in," said Small. "He (Dobyns) was sensational."
Dobyns arrived late Thursday evening on the Monterey Peninsula, played a round at the nearby Black Horse layout. He got in just nine holes at rugged Bayonet, walking the back nine, before the opening round. It was not your optimum practice time for a demanding course ranked No. 21 toughest in the U.S. by Golf Digest. However, Dobyns had a different perspective.
"This golf course just fit my eye," said Dobyns. "I had control of my golf swing, and I can't tell you why. When I got here, I felt in control. The hard shots didn't feel that difficult. I'm going to look back at the tape, because something has to be different."
Despite owning a six-stroke lead entering the final round, Dobyns admitted to a restless night of sleep. "I was thinking what it would have taken for me to feel comfortable, and I figured that the margin would have been about 15," he said.
Restless or not, Dobyns displayed the same cool that he had the previous 54 holes, and made birdies at the fifth, 10th and 18th holes – the last sealing a magical run.
The road to national prominence for Dobyns, according to 1996 National Champion Darrell Kestner of Glen Cove, N.Y., his longtime mentor and coach, was "just a matter of time."
Kestner, the PGA director of golf at Deepdale Golf Club in Manhasset, N.Y. – about two minutes from Fresh Meadow – finished play at Bayonet nearly a half hour ahead of Dobyns. Kestner's closing 74 was good enough to move him into 13th place and earn his 10th trip to the PGA Championship. In the process, the 58-year-old accomplished a rare feat himself by qualifying for a major championship in five separate decades. Kestner competed in the first of his eight U.S. Opens in 1979, and has made nine PGA Championship appearances prior to this year.
"I'm glad the rest of the golfing community could see what this kid can do," said Kestner, who hired Dobyns as an apprentice 2009, and continues to coach him today. "For three years at Deepdale, I saw some amazing stuff. I knew that he was one of the best playing club professionals in the country three years ago. For him to finally get his due, I feel very prideful for him."
The whirlwind Monterey Peninsula visit ended for Dobyns by his cradling the crystal Walter Hagen Cup. He punctuated his performance in the third round with a hole-in-one on the 14th hole at Bayonet and an 18th-hole eagle.
"That's how the margin got to where it was," said Dobyns. "Without those two things happening, the margin becomes about two or three strokes. Those things – an ace and an eagle – are really about fate and luck. You do have to put yourself in a position to do it, and it was good to do it while you are on top of the leaderboard."
The low 20 scorers earned a berth in the 94th PGA Championship, Aug. 9-12, at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C. The Metropolitan PGA Section led with five players of that group.
"I could think of a dozen players who would be able to do as well in this Championship," said Dobyns. "It is really a remarkable week for me, and I will have to sit back and try to put it into perspective."
A field of 312 PGA Professionals, representing 42 states and the District of Columbia, began play in the Championship, the second to visit Northern California, and first since 1970.
The PGA of America