Matt Dobyns does what works for him
Matt Dobyns swings right-handed but putts left-handed. He also scores very well – so well, in fact, that he's the 36-hole leader.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
SEASIDE, Calif. – Matt Dobyns, PGA Head Professional at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, N.Y., does things differently than most professionals.
He plays right-handed and putts left-handed. But, not only does he putt left-handed, he’s also a cross-handed, left-handed putter.
Got all that?
Dobyns is the epitome of “do what works for you.”
That quirkiness is working just fine, too – after 36 holes in the 45th PGA Professional National Championship at Bayonet Black Horse, his first start in the National Championship, Dobyns is the leader at 8-under 136.
He followed up a 4-under 68 at Black Horse on Sunday with an incredibly impressive 4-under 68 on the more difficult Bayonet Monday.
“It was pretty good,” said Dobyns, who had fives birdie and just one bogey Monday. “The greens are firm, so it makes you think when you’re hitting shots in there. You have to think about angles, you have to think about where you want to miss your shots because there are places that you cannot get the ball up and down from 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.”
So what’s it like to be leading?
“I’m just happy to be here more than anything else,” Dobyns said. “Really I’m just happy to be playing golf, whether it’s in this or at home with members. It doesn’t matter what the venue is for me. I just love being out there. The fact that I’m playing well makes it a little more enjoyable, certainly. I get to play two more days and I’m excited about that. However it falls, it’ll fall. Hopefully it falls well, but if not, I still got to play golf for two more days.”
If it sounds like Dobyns has great perspective, it’s because he does. The 34-year-old has a 9-month-old daughter with his wife, Laurie, and started his new job at Fresh Meadow in January.
“A lot has changed in my life over the last year and a half,” he said. “My priorities in golf are a little different than they were before. I think there are years where – after yesterday’s round – I would have probably not played as well today because I would have made it worth more than it really is. I’ve got great support from the membership at Fresh Meadow, from my wife and our new 9-month-old. That’s my No. 1 priority in life – my wife, our child and my job. If golf is third, it’s not that big a deal if you don’t perform well. That’s where I’m at.”
Prior to the gig at Fresh Meadow, Dobyns was an assistant at bordering Deepdale Golf Club, working under 1996 National Champion Darrell Kestner, who’s also in the field this week. Dobyns counts Kestner as a great friend and says he’s as great a mentor as he is a person.
One of the things Dobyns loves about Fresh Meadow is that the membership values a professional who can keep his game at a level that’s up to par with other professionals in the highly competitive Metropolitan Section. Dobyns plays about 8-10 events in the summer and won the 2011 Long Island Open.
“I started [at Fresh Meadow] in January and I’m actually now missing a ladies member-guest tomorrow, but the membership is still supporting me, so it was very nice of them to do that,” he said. “I’m just very happy to be here.”
When it comes to putting left-handed and hitting all his other shots right-handed, Dobyns said it’s something he’s done since he was 19 years old.
“When you miss enough putts, you need to find a way to figure it out,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to. I needed to make a dramatic change. So I basically built it from scratch, took the knowledge I had and wasn’t able to apply on the right side and then I turned around and just built a stroke left handed.”
Whether it looks weird or not, one thing is certain: it’s effective. Dobyns has needed just 49 putts through two rounds.
The 4-under 68 by Dobyns on the Bayonet Course matches Jim Estes for low round of the week there. Three-time National Champion Mike Small’s low-round of the week – a 6-under 66 in Round 1 – came on the Black Horse Course.
While everyone else was trying to figure out how to navigate their way around Bayonet, Dobyns liked what he saw as soon as he laid eyes on it in a practice round.
“After I played the golf course, I knew that I had a chance because it really suited my eye,” he said. “I liked a lot of the tee shots, a lot of the framing. I was concerned about the contour of the greens and not being very familiar with them, but if you’re careful and you pay attention, you can manage that somewhat and that’s what I’ve done. Am I surprised? A little bit, but I’m not shocked.”
The good news for Dobyns also happens to be the bad news for the rest of the field – the final two rounds will be played at Bayonet.