SEASIDE, Calif. -- Matt Dobyns of Sea Cliff, N.Y., who in a span of nine months became a father and began a new job in a town called Lake Success, carried that special karma to the Monterey Peninsula Monday afternoon. Looking like anything but a rookie in the showcase event for PGA Professionals, Dobyns posted a second consecutive 4-under-par 68 to seize a three-stroke lead at the midway point of the 45th PGA Professional National Championship.
The 34-year-old PGA head professional at Fresh Meadow Country Club capped his five-birdie, one-bogey round on Bayonet Golf Course with a birdie on the 18th hole. He needed only 25 putts while matching the day's low round and posted a 36-hole total of 8-under-par 136.
The University of Texas alum turned heads by his ambidextrous playing style. Since age 19, he has played right-handed from the tee and fairway and putted left-handed with a cross-handed putting grip.
"If you have ever seen me putt right-handed, you would know why I do it. I'm more comfortable that way," said Dobyns. "I built it from scratch, using the knowledge I had."
That unusual formula, mixed with a calm demeanor, served him well during a day when Bayonet and nearby Black Horse were buffeted by near 20-mph gusts.
"I'm just happy to be here more than anything else," said Dobyns. "Just to play golf, whether it is in this, or compete at home with the members, it doesn't matter what the venue is for me. I just love being out there. The fact that I played well, makes it more enjoyable. I'm looking forward to playing two more days more than anything else."
Three-time National Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., the first-round leader, struggled home with a 73, and Paul Scaletta of Jupiter, Fla., came in with a 72, yet shared second place at 139.
Dobyns escaped pitfalls on a day that produced unprecedented single-round Championship shotmaking. Overall, 16 players registered an eagle in the round, while Matt Slowinski of Glen Ellyn, Ill., recorded a double eagle-2 on the 518-yard, par-5 10th hole at Bayonet. He used a 5-iron to hole out from 205 yards.
Brian Cairns of Walled Lake, Mich., Jim Estes of Germantown, Md., Kelly Mitchum of Southern Pines, N.C, and Stuart Smith of Reno, Nev., were next at 140, while 2004 National Champion Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, was alone at 141.
Seventy-seven players made the 36-hole cut of 4-over-par 148, and will advance to the final 36 holes Tuesday and Wednesday at Bayonet. The low 20 scorers will earn a berth in the 94th PGA Championship, Aug. 9-12, at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C.
A field of 312 PGA Professionals, representing 42 states and the District of Columbia, began play in the $550,000 Championship. The PGA Professional National Championship is presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA, and is the second National Championship to visit Northern California, and first since 1970.
Small, the University of Illinois men's golf coach who has trailed after 36 holes in each of his previous Championship years of 2005, '09 and '10, had no trouble pinpointing his miscues of the second round.
"I salvaged my round with two birdies coming home, but for the most part the things I did well yesterday, I didn't do well today," said Small, who recorded five bogeys and four birdies. "I didn't pay attention to detail today and that cost me. The wind was more difficult today than yesterday. The greens are drying out."
Mitchum, a PGA assistant professional at Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort, had missed the cut in his previous two Championship trips after three consecutive top-10 finishes. He made a run at Dobyns' lead before a closing bogey at Bayonet.
"I didn't do myself a favor by hitting it into the fairway bunker at 18," said Mitchum. "It was tough out there and once you get out of the fairway you are going to pay the price. That (pair of 68s by Dobyns) is good playing. It can be done. No matter what draw you have, early morning or late, we saw the wind pick up about the same time. It's always going to be tough out here."
Dobyns said that he built respect for Bayonet Black Horse, and paced himself each round. He has taken 49 putts in two days on the challenging greens.
"It's a tough golf course; the greens are firm. It makes you think," said Dobyns. "You really have to think about angles; you have to think about where you want to miss your shots. There are places where you cannot get the ball up and down if you miss it in certain spots. You really have to pick your moments in terms of when you can make birdie, and when par is the number you need to make."
Only seven players in history have won a PGA Professional National Championship in their debut, including legendary Sam Snead, Don Massengale and Bruce Fleisher. The task is formidable for Dobyns to crash that elite roster, but he exuded a calm confidence after his round. Perhaps he picked some of that calm demeanor from his mentor and longtime coach, 1996 National Champion Darrell Kestner of Glen Cove, N.Y.
"After I played the golf course, I knew that I had a chance. It really suited my eye," said Dobyns. "I like a lot of the tee shots, a lot of the framing. I was concerned about the contours of the greens, and not being very familiar with them. But if you are careful and pay attention, you can manage. And, that is what I have done. I'm surprised a little bit, but not that shocked."
Defending Champion David Hutsell of Baltimore, who posted a 74 for a 146 total, was one of seven past Champions to make the cut.