Dobyns wins PGA Pro National title

Matt Dobyns hits a tee shot on the Matt Dobyns hits a tee shot on the 11th tee during the New York State Open Championship at Bethpage Black. (July 20, 2011) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since ...

No matter how well he has played in local tournaments, such as his victory at the 2011 Long Island Open, Matt Dobyns has been clear that he has no dreams of playing the PGA Tour. He wants only to be the best club pro he can be.

That is so important to him as a first-year head pro at Fresh Meadow in Lake Success, that he nearly skipped this week's PGA Professional National Championship in Seaside, Calif., because he was planning a women's member-guest.

He decided at the last minute to make the trip, and it was one he never will forget. Dobyns won the tournament -- known as the club pro championship -- by a record eight strokes Wednesday, meaning that, for this year, he is the best-playing club pro in the country. And he will get to play among all the best tour pros in the last of their four majors this year, the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, S.C., in August.

"I'm pretty glad I came, to be honest with you," he said during the awards ceremony, after he finished 13 under. He said he never felt pressure because he has had other things on his mind, such as the birth of his first child last August and landing his first head pro job last winter. "You start to prioritize things in your life. I think that helped me perform at a high level."

Dobyns will be joined at the PGA by his former boss, Deepdale head pro Darrell Kestner, and Tam O'Shanter Club head pro Mark Brown, who also qualified Wednesday by finishing in the top 20. They will remember the week as the one in which Dobyns broke a record for victory margin, formerly held by Sam Snead.

Three weeks ago, after he lost to Mike Meehan in a playoff at the Long Island Open, Dobyns said he was surprised he had played as well as he did because he had practiced so little this year. The fact is, he has unique talent (he swings righthanded and putts lefthanded). He was a highly recruited high school player in Austin and played for the University of Texas. He just didn't consider his game to be PGA Tour caliber, so he came to the Metropolitan Section 10 years ago because he heard it was such a good training ground for club pros.

After working as an assistant at Hudson National, he spoke with his great uncle, former Meadow Brook pro Gil Kavanaugh, about moving to Long Island. Kavanaugh called Kestner, who hired Dobyns, tutored him and last year gave him an assignment: Win a local major. Dobyns took the Long Island Open at Wheatley Hills and his career took a big step forward.

He cruised with a big lead Wednesday. The only time he choked was when he held the trophy and choked back tears. Mentioning all of his supporters, especially his wife, Laurie, and daughter Kaitlyn, he said, "Things like this don't happen often, for anyone. They're not worth doing unless you have people to share it with."

You also may be interested in: