The PGA Championship merits its reputation for attracting the strongest field in golf: this week at Kiawah island, all of the top 103 golfers in the World Ranking are here.
There is another section to the field this week though, that is less about the tour grind and more akin to a kind of masculated Cinderella – the 20 American club professionals who have qualified for the biggest golfing week of their lives.
The 20 club pros have qualified through the PGA Professional National Championship, which itself is a championship of enormous proportions. In June, a field of 312 club pros assembled at the Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses on California’s Monterey Peninsula, each of whom were either past champions or qualifiers from a series of 41 nationwide Section Championships. The 45th PGA National Championship involved four stroke play rounds, with only the top 70 clearing a halfway cut. Then the top 20 reach the hallowed ground of the PGA Championship.
This year, leading the contingent of club pros onto the Ocean Course is Matt Dobyns, the 34-year-old head pro from Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, New York, who won his first PGA National Championship by a record eight shots, smashing the five-stroke record established in 1971 by none other than Sam Snead.
“This is the ultimate goal in terms of playing for someone like me,” says Dobyns, as he readies himself to join European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal and South Africa’s Branden Grace on the first tee today at 7:50am (US Eastern time). “I’m thrilled to be here, I’m thrilled to have my family here and close friends, and it’s already going too fast.”
Dobyns is trying to go into the tournament with “no expectations”, but he is only human, and it is impossible to completely banish the hope of making the cut.
“I don’t have a goal,” he adds. “I’m not sure how many sports psychologists would think that would be a good thing, but there is too much going on around me. This is my first rodeo here, and I don’t really know what is realistic for me. I was good enough to win the National Club Pro – does that mean I’m good enough to make the cut here? I’d like to think so. Obviously if I made the cut I would be thrilled to play the weekend of a major.”
Dobyns was once a golf scholar at the University of Texas, and Gene Sarazen is among his predecessors at Fresh Meadow CC, and for one week only, he has stepped out from behind the pro shop till to enjoy the trappings of majors golf.
“When I got the Mercedes, that was the biggest ‘wow’ moment for me,” adds Dobyns, in reference to the courtesy car provided to all competitors this week by Mercedes-Benz. “It’s hard to figure out how to turn that thing on though!”
The PGA Championship is the only major to have a field made up entirely of golf professionals, in keeping with the PGA of America’s roots as representing the country’s fraternity of 27,000 PGA professionals.
Story courtesy of Mercedes-Benz, official car of the 2012 PGA Championship