In honor of Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor Rob Labritz’s sixth trip to the PGA Championship this week, I’m proud to have shared my semi-regular blog with him during the tournament, in which he finished at +10 after four rounds to earn low PGA Club Professional honors over 19 fellow qualifiers. The New Yorker, who’s the Director of Golf at Glenarbor Golf Club in Pound Ridge, just completed a “home game” in front of family and friends just 45 minutes from where he lives and works. Every day of the competition he has provided a PGA Championship diary of his time on and around Bethpage Black. In this final dispatch, Rob talks about how special his PGA Championship was, what it will mean to him for years to come — and how he plans to parlay his experience into even more success as a teacher and competitor.
DAY SEVEN: ROUND FOUR AND BEYOND
I’m back home, back to reality, picking up boxes, planning our next three weeks because we just sold our house. We’ve got a lot going on. Pretty amazing.
We are gonna downsize a bit, what we what we want to do with the next few years, with the golf career — the Senior Champions Tour coming up. Just want to get ready.
The PGA Championship was a “mission accomplished” sort of thing for me. In the final round, I bogeyed my last three holes after trying to birdie 18. The ball landed by the hole [then kicked away]. But I played solid golf in those [windy] conditions. That golf course was baring its teeth, extremely hard.
I hit the fairways I didn’t hit in the prior rounds, which made my job a little easier. The last three, four holes are REALLY hard, and they got to all of us. Brooks is a great champion, he did his job and won wire-to-wire. Rickie Fowler shot 77.
I shot 72 with bogeys on my last three, so I made a pretty big jump on the field.
It’s funny — after breakfast this morning, we went to visit a friend who owns a tattoo parlor here in Pound Ridge. The phone rang. I usually don’t answer calls if there’s no number, but this time the phone was ringing in my hand, and it came up “Augusta, Georgia,” so I had to answer it. I heard a different accent and didn’t quite know who it was. He said, “That was just an incredible accomplishment!” It was Gary Player. One of the nicest phone calls … what an adrenaline rush. It was very, very cool for Mr. Player to call and wish me congratulations on being low club pro, just being the gentleman that he is. Wow.
He designed GlenArbor, he’s one of my members, and he comes every year. I take good care of him. But to receive that call with him wishing me congrats on good playing was pretty special.
Back to my Sunday round. Hole 4 was good to me this week, with three birdies in four rounds, and hole 13 [the other par 5] was almost good to me on Sunday, too. I was just over the back portion of that green and had a little eight-foot chip out of the first cut. I’m still a believer that leaving the pin in isn’t a big help for any shot, because I hit it dead center of the flagstick, bounced straight off of it and didn’t go in for birdie. So from now I’m going to have the pin tended, even for longer putts. I had four putts this week that hit the pin and didn’t go in. So the jury came down with its verdict for me: Take the pin out.
I know I’ve talked about it all week, but the crowds were insane on Sunday. I get on the first tee and there’s a few things I wanted to do as a PGA Club Professional. Obviously I wanted to play well, which for the most part, I did this week. But I wanted to engage the crowd. So I took my phone out and put it on video, and everybody saw it, started screaming and cheering, and I yelled out, “Come on, everybody, you’ve got to make this last for me — I’ve gotta go back to work tomorrow!” So everybody laughed and got louder and louder.
On 18, I stood on the fairway after hitting my 3-wood right down the middle, into the wind, grabbed my phone out of my bag again, and just put it up in the air, took a picture of the grandstands and the people cheering, then hit the ball up on the green.
Man, I can’t tell you what a great week it was. Just amazing. I don’t want it to end, so I’m just going to keep plugging, grinding, just getting better, teaching and coaching — all of the above.
Moving forward, the game plan is to keep growing our membership. We’ve got a boost in our membership right now. The golf course is in phenomenal shape, we’ve got a new superintendent at the helm, and I’m starting to have some success on a bigger scale. Drawing some attention.
So, I’ve got of requests for coaching. We’ll see where it takes us. I’m going to expand the coaching business, see if I can get some guys underneath me teaching more. And I’ll just keep working on my game, because in a couple weeks I turn 48, and the following two years will fly by, so I want to be prepared for that Champions Tour, senior circuit, senior PGA and all that stuff.
When you have a week like this, and get to see all the players you watch every week, see what they do and how they do it, and know that you can do it as well, it gives you a lot of confidence. I’m riding a pretty big emotional confidence wave right now, which I’m going to keep pushing into my workouts, my practice, my coaching and my management. We’re going to keep making everybody better, and see where the game takes us. Because I’m sure as hell enjoying the ride right now.
I’ve appreciated the opportunity to talk about my week with you. It’s not every day a Golf Tips instructor gets to play and have fun in a major. I’m happy to be part of that.
My next goal — being as I’m in the National Club Pro Championship in Austin, Texas, already — is to get myself to Harding Park for the PGA next year … and chase down another major.