It would be absolutely perfect for Matt Dobyns if he could qualify for his sixth PGA Championship, this year of all years. The local club pro has traveled all over the country to play in the PGA and this time it is coming to him, on Long Island at Bethpage Black, where his members would be able to watch him.
All he needs to do is finish among the top 20 at the national club pro tournament, an event he has won twice.
The problem is that his preparation for that big qualifier, which starts Sunday in Bluffton, South Carolina, has had to share time with his first months on his dream job: head pro of the Meadow Brook Club in Jericho.
Which means there really is no problem. His new post is such a golf gem and family treasure that he will be just fine whether or not he gets to tee it up with Tiger Woods and the other top tour pros on the Black Course May 16-19.
“I’m ecstatic about it. I’m just in love with the place,” the Austin, Texas, native said of Meadow Brook, “and I’m over the moon that I have a chance to be part of the history there and ensure that it continues to be one of the premier clubs on Long Island.
“What really impresses me is the golf IQ of the people who are there. They are very in tune with the history of Meadow Brook. They embrace that. They’re concerned with its place in the golf world, always trying to find ways to keep Meadow Brook relevant and keep it on the golf map, so to speak. That’s what’s most impressive, that the members have a deeper connection than having it be just a place to go and play golf.”
Dobyns, 41, succeeds the retired Rick Meskell, who succeeded the retired Gil Cavanaugh, who was the reason Dobyns came to Long Island in the first place.
Cavanaugh, who died in 2010, was Dobyns’ great uncle and his golfing patriarch. After the young man graduated from (and played golf for) the University of Texas, he was intrigued by the Met Section. He sought advice from Cavanaugh, who placed a call to Deepdale Golf Club pro Darrell Kestner.
Kestner hired Dobyns as an assistant and helped the new guy’s golf game. Dobyns won two Long Island Opens, and boosted by the stature, he became head pro at Fresh Meadow. That was a role he would not have left for anything less than Meadow Brook.
The great uncle had spoken glowingly about the course that Sports Illustrated once compared to Augusta National and that hosted the senior tour’s Northville Long Island Classic. Dobyns fell in love with the layout before he even saw it. “I wish he were alive to share this with me,” he said.
As for this week, Dobyns said, “The short answer is, I probably am not ready.” The drawback was not getting acclimated to a new pro shop but dealing with the weather, a hindrance for every pro in the northern United States. Because the PGA Championship was moved from August to May, the club pros’ tournament was moved from late June to April, not leaving much of a practice window. Dobyns took an extra trip south over the winter, then bundled up and worked the best he could on Long Island in March.
“It’s more about getting repetitions than anything else, just getting the club on the ball, working on the basic things. Setup and ball position, things like that,” he said. “You’re wearing so many layers, the motion is going to be different.”
Others who will be trying this week to qualify for a de facto home game at the Black are Kestner, Danny Balin (Dobyns’ replacement at Fresh Meadow), Jason Caron (Mill River), Jim Farrell (The Hamlet), Mike Midgette (Hempstead Golf & Country Club) and Huntington native Brad Lardon of Santa Fe, New Mexico
For any of them, it would be an honor. Playing in the PGA Championship is the highlight of a club pro’s season. “There are a lot of extra things about it this year,” Dobyns said. “But I can’t let those distract from what I’m trying to do. Every year is a big year.”
Andrew Lee, Crab Meadow GC, ninth hole, 148 yards, 5-iron
Mike Fagan, Smithtown Landing, second hole, 145 yards, 7-iron
Andrew Marcus, Old Westbury G&CC Bluegrass, third hole, 155 yards, 9-iron
Emerson Stumpf (of Plainview), Shawnee (Pa.) Inn Blue Course, second hole, 123 yards, 6-iron
Arthur Felsenfeld, Tam O’Shanter Club, second hole, 154 yards, 5-iron
Tommy Russo, Bethpage Blue, 17th hole, 170 yards, 7-wood
James Leder (of Manhasset), The Sandbox GC, Nekoosa, Wis., first hole, 105 yards, lob wedge
Tom Britton, Eisenhower White, fifth hole, 185 yards, 5-wood
Joe Errico, Swan Lake GC, 16th hole, 125 yards, 8-iron
Evan Farkas, Bethpage Red, 17th hole, 153 yards, 8-iron
Bruce Marin, Heatherwood GC, sixth hole, 145 yards, 3-wood