Rob Labritz takes sole possession of lead in Stroke Play Championship; Karen Paolozzi extends lead in Women's

By John Dever & Pat Kravitz
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Rob Labritz takes sole possession of lead in Stroke Play Championship; Karen Paolozzi extends lead in Women's

PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida (February 7, 2017) -- The Metropolitan PGA Section is flexing its muscles through two rounds of the Stroke Play Championship as Rob Labritz of Pound Ridge, New York leads the way at 11-under. For the second consecutive day, Karen Paolozzi posted a 4-under 68 and stretched her lead to five strokes heading into the final round of the Women’s Stroke Play Championship. Both events are being contested at PGA Golf Club.

Labritz, Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club, posted a 6-under 66 despite three bogeys on the back nine. He put an exclamation point on his round when he nearly holed out for eagle from 140 yards on the always challenging par-4 18th on the Wanamaker Course. He tapped in the putt from a couple inches to gain the one-stroke advantage.

“I had a couple bad lies, but I was playing pretty solid,” said Labritz. “Bogey-free up until my 29th hole or so. Playing with Rod Perry, him and I were just throwing birdies back and forth at each other. We really fed off one another.”

LEADERBOARDS: Men's Stroke Play Championship | Women's Stroke Play Championship

“I know the golf course so well and it’s in such great shape. Hats off to [PGA Golf Club Superintendent] Dick Gray and his staff.”

The Met’s Steve Scott of New City, New York, Jason Caron of Oyster Bay, New York, and Ben Polland of Manhasset, New York, share a tie for second with Port Orange, Florida’s Perry, each one stroke behind Labritz at 10-under through two rounds.

Scott followed Monday’s bogey-free, 7-under 65 with a 3-under 69. He rolled in birdie opportunities on 7, 10 and 12, along with a 15-footer on the Wanamaker’s 18th. His lone blemish came on the 369-yard par-4 8th, his 17th hole of the day.

“I’ve been hitting the ball very well the last two days,” said Scott, who notably finished runner-up in the 1996 U.S. Amateur to Tiger Woods. “We didn’t have much wind until maybe our 11th hole. I played really steady. The putter was maybe a fraction more cold than yesterday, but overall it was a solid day. Stress-free golf through the first 36 holes.”

Polland, who began his day on the back nine, enjoyed a clean scorecard until his final hole of the round when he bogeyed the 9th, a three-putt from within ten feet. Still, four birdies, including a streak of three consecutive between the 4th and 6th holes, have the 26-year-old in a comfortable position.

“Similar to yesterday, I wasn’t getting off the tee very well but I managed my game and was able to keep myself out of trouble,” said Polland, the 2016 National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Champion. “I knew my misses were in one direction so I favored one side of the fairway and tried to bust it down there and keep it in play.”

Caron began the day red-hot, making the turn with a 7-under 29, a career-low for him in a tournament. He began the round with six consecutive birdies on holes 10 through 15 and rolled in another on 17. Unfortunately for Caron, he failed to score on his back nine and tallied two bogeys coming in for a 5-under 67.

“My putting was stellar on the front nine,” he said. “On the back I made two bogeys and couldn’t hit a putt, but I was very pleased with how I played overall. Making six birdies in a row was pretty amazing.”

Perry joined the list of New Yorkers with his bogey-free, 6-under 66. Three consecutive birdies on 7, 8 and 9 highlighted his day as he will look to continue his strong play over the next couple days.

Jeff Sorenson of Blaine, Minnesota carded a round-two best 7-under 65, an impressive score on a course that averaged a 74.95 for the day. He sits in a tie for ninth.

In the Women’s Stroke Play Championship, Karen Paolozzi posted another 68, a no-frills effort that provided a two-day total of 136 and a five-stroke advantage over Charlotta Sorenstam (70-71, 141).

Paolozzi, a PGA First Assistant Professional at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta, described her round on Tuesday as “quiet” and “boring.” Lots of greens and two-putts, but Paolozzi felt something was missing despite signing a scorecard with five birdies against a lone bogey.

“Didn’t have the same short game as I did yesterday,” Paolozzi said of her putter, which she described as her “all-star” just 24 hours earlier. “I made some, but this was more of a quiet 68. It did not feel like a 68. A bit boring, but that’s not always bad in golf.”

Paolozzi is 18 holes shy of claiming a second straight Women’s Stroke Play Championship, and a third in four years (she also won in 2014).

That puts history on the table, as only two others women (C.J. Reeves/2005, ’09 and Carolyn Barnett-Howe/2006, ’08) have won this Championship more than once.

History, however, won’t be polluting Paolozzi’s mindset entering tomorrow’s final round.

“That doesn’t get me too excited, because it’s all in the past. I really don't want to think about going back-to-back (in the PGA Women's Stroke Play Championship) or any historical context.”

What she did allow herself to dwell on is her special relationship with PGA Golf Club.

“We used to come down here (to PGA Golf Club) for Spring Break, when I was playing at Indiana University. I remember when the two golf courses here were called the North (Wanamaker Course) and South Courses (Ryder Course). I have a lot of history her. Between college, PGA School, the PGA Assistants Championship and this Championship, I realized I'd been playing and enjoying these golf courses for 16 years. I’ve played more tournaments here than anywhere else.”

After opening with a 70 on Monday, Sorenstam’s 71 on Tuesday was her second straight sub-par score. She crept within shouting distance of Paolozzi with birdies on 16 and 17, but a bogey on the par-4 18th left her five off the pace.

The Vice President of the PGA of America, Suzy Whaley (76-68, 144) of Cromwell, Connecticut, is currently eight shots back after carding a 68 that included four birdies on the Ryder’s back nine. Whaley’s second-round tally matched Paolozzi for Tuesday’s low round.

Whaley is tied with Alison Curdt (74-70, 144) for third place, while Jennifer Bermingham (73-73, 146) is alone in fifth.

The winner of the Stroke Play Championship takes home $3,000, while the Women’s Stroke Play Champion collects $2,200.

The PGA Winter Championships are presented by and PrimeSport.