A PGA Champion: Rob Labritz
By Keith Stewart, PGA
Setting goals is an important characteristic of successful people. They write down objectives and work hard until they achieve them. Some are short term, others a little longer. In either case, achieving those goals takes motivation, focus and a great work ethic. Alongside those traits, goal-oriented people also possess a deep amount of self-belief. That inner confidence is the spark that keeps them going, helps them remain on task and in the end pushes them across the finish line.
PGA Professional Rob Labritz is a successful person. As the Director of Golf at the GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York, Rob’s day-to-day life revolves around a healthy equilibrium between his membership, staff and family at home. A lifelong club professional, Rob began his PGA Journey more than a couple decades ago.
Labritz has always been a solid player. He has qualified for 8 PGA Championships and finished as the low PGA Member in the field twice. The last time was near home in the 2019 PGA Championship contested at infamous Bethpage Black. For all his various accomplishments on the course, Rob has been singularly motivated by the same dream for a very long time. Fifteen years ago, he decided that when he turned fifty, he would qualify for the PGA Tour Champions.
Take a moment and listen to a brief conversation with Rob Labritz on The PGA Show
This past Friday afternoon, Rob started the final qualifying round just one shot off the lead. The night before he had a conversation with his son. With words only a son or family member can provide, Labritz took to the links on Friday. Six pars and a birdie through seven holes and Rob knew he needed to play better. This is when he started to think back over the length of his preparation for this moment. Fifteen years is a long time for anyone to stay singularly focused on an objective.
He recalled all the moments of practice and sacrifice it took getting to this point. Not just the moments he chose to keep the goal in mind, but all those times his family supported his practice routine, or his staff watched the club when he would go to compete. It takes a village for a reason and Rob knows that. In speaking with him, the passion he has for this accomplishment is only second to the gratitude he feels for those around him.
With that inner self-belief and confidence Rob birdied the next three holes. Now four under par through ten holes, with a strong finish he could do it. Labritz had been here before and failed. In golf, we all tend to lose more that we win. The game is just so tough. Even Jack and Tiger have lost way more tournaments than they have ever won, and they are the ultimate standard.
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A solid par on the 180-yard 11th hole and Labritz summoned the self-belief once again and birdied holes twelve through fourteen. Three more in a row and six birdies in his last seven holes. Rob was riding high and had to stay calm. He had four holes to play and that seemed like an eternity. Keep in mind, this is a man who set a fifteen-year goal!
Walking through the Westchester Airport after 11:00 pm on Saturday night, Rob was exhausted. He caught the eyes of his beautiful wife Kerri and she had her camera on. She wanted to record that very special moment when he saw her. Behind every great player is a partner who helped them get there. The two shared a moment in the airport. As Rob said, “I would have cried, but by then I was already out of tears.” Labritz is known as an emotional guy. God, family, and friends can all get him going as he wears his feelings on his sleeve.
Rob parred holes fifteen and sixteen. Two more holes to play. For fifteen years, Rob stayed true to his role, and his goal. He was now seven under par through sixteen holes. He was playing the greatest final round of his life under tremendous pressure. Qualifying School stories represent the lifeblood of the game. For every single success story, there are one hundred stories of failure. There’s no greater weight than playing for your future.
Hole 17 is a 217-yard Par 3. Labritz makes another par. One step closer to the goal. In the Metropolitan PGA Section, Rob is revered in tournament golf. As one of their playing leaders, he realizes the importance of grooming the next generation of club professional playing stars. A mentor at heart, many are sure to be celebrating with him if he can just get across the finish line.
The 18th Hole at the “Tournament Players Club” (TPC) Tampa Bay is exactly what you think it is. Long, tight with water right and well bunkered to the left. Rob ripped a tee shot and knew he could do it. He positively managed so many years of his life for this moment. He embraced his goal and accepted his fate. He believed the work had been done and as a result he could finish strong. Rob parred the final hole and signed for a 64. Seven birdies and no bogeys on a round that was literally fifteen years in the making.
When a lifelong club professional earns his tour card, it’s a cool story. It shows everyone with great support and hard work dreams can come true. Rob has made a tremendous impact on the game in his community. As a role model, coach, mentor, and friend there are so many who will celebrate this win. In the coming weeks, he will begin a new chapter in his life. Although he’s just starting on the PGA Tour Champions, I think we all know Rob has certainly been a “champion” for a lot longer than that...