In 73 career rounds on Bethpage Black, Rob Labritz had experienced just about everything. It is why he was so motivated to get into the PGA Championship field and why he felt so comfortable once he made it. Still, he was not prepared for what he experienced Sunday evening.
There was Labritz, director of golf at Glen Arbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills and former assistant pro at Shinnecock Hills, standing on the 18th green next to champion Brooks Koepka, holding a glass bowl. Labritz shot 2-over-par 72 in the final round, finished at 10 over for the week and was low club pro in the major championship—a distinction craved by everyone who gives lessons and sells green fees.
“It’s a lifelong work,” he said. “I’m overjoyed.”
Labritz had won the honor once before, at the 2010 PGA, but that was not the same as winning it on the course that he visits every year for the New York State Open and on which he has competed in the Met Open. In essence, he did it at home.
His caddie and his wife urged him to do everything he could to finish among the top 20 in the national club pro championship and earn his way to Bethpage. “During the winter, every other week I would travel down to Florida and work out at the PGA Village, hitting golf balls, playing in tournaments, playing the winter series,” he said. “You know, I didn't see my family much this winter, it was a big sacrifice because we wanted to make sure my game was sharp enough to compete.”
The 47-year-old rallied to make the cut at 4 over after shooting 5 over in the first round. He was amazed at the fervor and size of the crowds, noting that he often has about five people following him at the State Open. But the strategy was just the same. “You've got to be patient out here. That's all you have to do. Try to hit it in the fairway,” he said.
Having been photographed next to Koepka and the Wanamaker Trophy, he said, “I was looking at that big one, I want that big one. It makes me a little bit wanting, but I’ll take this.” With that, he held up the glass bowl.
In another three years, he will give the PGA Tour Champions 50-and-over circuit a shot. Until then, he will keep grinding away in local tournaments. He even has a plan for way, way down the road: He wants his ashes sprinkled on the Black Course.
“This place is special to me,” he said. “I might have them take a quarter of them and maybe go to Shinnecock, too.”