Matt Dobyns in command after 54 holes
Boosted by a hole-in-one and a closing eagle, Matt Dobyns of New York stretched his lead to six shots in Tuesday's third round.
By Bob Denney, The PGA of America
SEASIDE, Calif. – Matt Dobyns was at odds with himself about whether to compete in the 45th PGA Professional National Championship. There was an important Ladies Member-Guest event Tuesday at his home club. The first-year head professional didn't want anyone to think he was skipping out.
Given a vote of confidence from Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, N.Y., the 34-year-old Dobyns has been on a tear in his debut in the showcase event for PGA Professionals. He made a stunning tour of Bayonet Golf Course Tuesday afternoon, combining a hole-in-one on the 14th hole with a hole-out from a bunker at 18 for an eagle and a 3-under-par 69. Those highlight-reel gems helped him build a 54-hole total of 11-under-par 205 and a six-stroke cushion.
“I didn’t have any goals coming here; I didn’t have time,” said Dobyns, whose most recent victory came in the 2011 Long Island Open. “I wasn’t sure I was going to come until the day before. The Ladies Member-Guest event today is a big event for me since I’ve been employed. I have never been in front before – not this far in front – and not in front of this many good players.”
Three-time PGA Professional National Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., who finished with an even-par 72, was alone in second at 211 and like the rest of the field appeared to be looking uphill to Dobyns. Small had three-putted twice and came within two strokes of Dobyns midway through the round before slipping back.
“You can’t play defense in golf. He played great, made great shots and deserved to have a good round,” said Small, who owns seven top-10 finishes in eight previous appearances. “I know I have to hit the ball better. Matt’s going to have to help us out a little bit, but he sure is playing well right now.”
Kelly Mitchum of Southern Pines, N.C., was next at 212, after a 72, while Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., and Paul Scaletta of Jupiter, Fla., shared fourth at 214. Former National Champion Darrell Kestner of Glen Cove, N.Y., who had been Dobyns’ boss for three seasons, led a group of five players at 215 that included Frank Bensel of Jupiter, Fla.; Chad Proehl of Urbandale, Iowa; Kevin Shields of Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Corey Prugh of Spokane, Wash.
Dobyns paced himself through the front nine at Bayonet, making a bogey on the par-3 sixth hole before bouncing back with a birdie at 10. That set up his fireworks on the final four holes. He used a 7-iron on the 200-yard 14th for his eighth career ace and second in competition. The ball bounced off the right fringe and tracked to the hole. Though Dobyns went on to bogey the 15th, he remained a picture of calm.
“First of all, an ace is not about skill, it’s about luck,” said Dobyns shrugging his shoulders. “I’m just trying to keep the ball on the green, and the ball bounces, and it goes into the hole. Sometime it looks like it’s going to go in, and it doesn’t, and this particular one did. I’m happy I made it, don’t get me wrong.
“I didn’t see it at all, and then I saw people waving their arms around and they said I won a (Club Car) golf cart. I don’t know how I’m going to get that back to New York.”
Dobyns saved another highlight moment for the 519-yard 18th hole, despite a tee shot that hugged the right first cut of fairway rough and with a cypress tree guarding the corner path to the green.
“I did not hit a great tee shot there, and it’s a hole that if I do hit a good tee shot, I have a middle iron into the green,” said Dobyns. “I hung it a little bit right. Rather than hold back, I tried to carve a 3-iron and somewhere near the green.” His approach found a left-hand greenside bunker.
“I faced a bunker shot similar to that on the practice area, and I didn’t feel too badly about it. I wasn’t uncomfortable there," he explained. "If the ball doesn’t go in, it’s about 10 feet past. But the ball hit the pin dead center and I’ll take it.”
Dobyns said that he believed that he could sleep comfortably on a six-stroke lead.
“Every round I’ve had the same prerogative,” said Dobyns. “I am trying to make pars. It’s not a golf course where you can go out and shoot 64. You try to start out and try to make pars. That’s what I plan to do tomorrow. We’ll see what happens, I feel comfortable out here, and I hope that I don’t feel too uncomfortable tomorrow.”
Seventy-seven players will compete in Wednesday’s final round, with the low 20 scorers earning 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.
Dobyns will have much to shoot for Wednesday, attempting to join a list of first-time National Champions that includes Sam Snead, Don Massengale, and Bruce Fleisher.
“I didn’t know that Sam Snead was a winner of this Championship, and I should know better," he said. "To have a chance to be mentioned along with him is something anyone could cherish.”