8/10 • 3 - 6 PM
U.S. SENIOR OPEN
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Qualifier Rob Labritz quickly became a crowd favorite at Saucon Valley with his play and exuberance. (USGA/Steven Gibbons)
Rob Labritz was an overnight sensation at the 42nd U.S. Senior Open – one that was nearly two decades in the making.
Labritz, of Pound Ridge, N.Y., completed a storybook week on Sunday with a tie for fourth place on Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course, his best finish in 12 starts since earning his PGA Tour Champions card at Q-School Finals last December, and by far his largest payday.
Labritz attracted a large following of members and friends from his home club, GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., and he also earned plenty of attention both for his play and his playing to the galleries. Labritz even brought his family into the act, holding his 17-month-old daughter, Logan, during a post-round interview session.
Though he closed with a 3-over-par 74 on Sunday, Labritz ended the week at 3-under 281, tied with 2016 champion Gene Sauers and Thongchai Jaidee, another competitor who earned his PGA Tour Champions playing privileges last December. Jaidee has already captured his first victory, the American Family Insurance Championship, two weeks ago. Though he finished T-4, Labritz put his week solidly in the “win” column.
“The people and the fans of Pennsylvania and Saucon Valley were amazing,” said Labritz, a native of Southington, Conn. “It was a phenomenal tournament. We had a huge contingent of my team at GlenArbor, my family, members, friends… It’s so cool how the crowd got behind me. I can’t wipe the smile off my face.”
When asked whether he was surprised that he cracked the top five in this event, typically the toughest test for players 50 and older, Labritz said he was not.
“I’ve won three New York State Opens at Bethpage Black, so I’m used to tough courses,” he noted. “The courses don’t freak me out, the rough doesn’t, either. It’s just a matter of playing good golf and not getting too high or low.”
The groundwork began to be laid for Labritz’s new career back in 2003. That’s when he left PGA Tour Canada to become a club pro – one with a target date of age 50 to return to tour golf.
“I just decided that I wanted to get myself in shape and my game in shape and play full-time,” said Labritz, who qualified for five PGA Championships as a club professional and was the lone club pro to make the 36-hole cut in 2010 at Whistling Straits. “I did my job – I taught more than 1,000 hours of lessons a year for the last 20-plus years – but I also worked on my game before, during and after work.”
More recently, in an effort that surely paid dividends at Saucon Valley, Labritz sought to hone his skills around the green.
“I’ve been working really hard since I got on the Champions Tour on my short game,” said the 2008 Metropolitan PGA Player of the Year. “I’ve always been a good ball-striker, but my wedge game, my putting, and my mind have gotten a lot better. I’ve really worked hard on staying calm and being happy.”
That attitude adjustment is surely another reason why it was hard for Labritz to wipe the smile off his face after he finished this unexpected turn in a senior major championship. The tie for fourth place ensures that he will be in the field again in 2023, when the 43rd U.S. Senior Open will be played at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wis.
His goal between now and that 2023 championship?
“I feel like I belong out here,” he said. “I know I can win out here. It’s just a matter of time.”
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jun 25, 2022
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