Dobyns leads LI contingent in PGA Championship

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

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Mark Herrmann Newsday columnist Mark Herrmann

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

When Matt Dobyns was learning the nuances of being a teaching pro as Darrell Kestner's assistant at Deepdale Golf Club, his boss always told him to take time to work on his own game. The results show that Dobyns is as good at taking advice as he is at giving it.

Dobyns, the head pro at Fresh Meadow Country Club, is the de facto standard-bearer for all club pros as he heads into the PGA Championship next week. As the winner of the PGA National Professional Championship, he was featured in the CBS preview of the major. Dobyns also will be followed daily by TNT during its coverage from Kiawah Island, S.C. And, he is on the schedule to do a full-fledged news conference, just like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and defending champion Keegan Bradley.

"That will be interesting," Dobyns said on the phone from the club the other day.

He is one of 20 club pros who qualified for the season's last major. The group also includes Mark Brown, head pro at the Tam O'Shanter Club, with whom Dobyns traveled to South Carolina Monday to practice at Kiawah. "We're not short hitters, but we were hitting long irons into those greens," he said.

The group of 20 also includes Kestner, who is a formidable player as well as mentor at 58. It will be his 10th PGA.

Kestner has heard all about how long and tough the Ocean Course is. "But the last PGA I played was Baltusrol. They said it was the longest major in history. So there were a lot of hybrids into the par 4s. But I made the cut."

Kestner did finish in the top five when the national club pro championship was held at Kiawah Island. "It was all about getting up and down, which is why I played well," said the man who started this season by winning the Long Island PGA Championship against younger, bigger-hitting opponents. At the time, he said, "These things don't happen by accident."

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That is, you've got to work at it -- without neglecting your job, which is to serve the members. Kestner's lesson book is packed this week, right through Sunday, before his flight south. "The most pressure I'll feel is to do well so I won't let them down," he said.

This trip will be especially inspiring for him because of Dobyns, whom he "assigned" to win a local major last year, when he still was on staff at Deepdale. Sure enough, Dobyns won the Long Island Open. Still, he was a long way from the national sensation he became when he won the PGA National Professionals event in Seaside, Calif.

Kestner, who was there, said, "I was so excited to see him win, more so than I would have been for myself. He's young, he's just starting his career. And he's that good a player."

Dobyns, who consistently has said he couldn't have asked for a better teacher than Kestner, said his members "are behind me 100 percent."

"They watched the CBS special, they're looking forward to following me. I just hope they don't have to turn the newspaper upside down to see my name at the top," he said, then politely had to cut the conversation short. He had to go back out to the practice tee and give another lesson.

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