Fore! Playing it up with Rob Labritz – low-scoring Club Pro at the PGA Championship
Rob Labritz is a champion! It’s the mix of humility, steely confidence, and—simply stated—the best golf game in this region that make him so.
Labritz is 48, lives in Pound Ridge with his wife and two kids, and is coming on two decades as the director of golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford.
In May, Labritz was the low-scoring Club Professional at the PGA Championship, one of the four major tournaments in the world of golf. For most guys, that would be a crowning achievement. But Labritz downplays it, saying: “I was the low club pro, but I was tied for 60th in the tournament. And, you know, I was the low club pro in 2010, as well.” Even more to the point, Labritz states candidly that the accomplishments at the PGA are not his most important wins. He reserves that special place on the mantel for the much less significant Golden Bear Tour Championship that he won the week his dad died in 1997. “I had been banging away on the pro tour for a while without that breakthrough win. My dad passed that Tuesday, and my mom made it clear that Dad would have wanted me to play that week. I went 36 holes without a bogie to get into a playoff for the win on Sunday afternoon. I flubbed the first shot of the playoff, but I felt my dad’s presence out there on the course with me. I chipped in to save the hole and went on to win the tournament!
It was a real turning point in my life!”
Labritz had knocked around a bit prior to that first pro tournament win. He grew up in Southington, Connecticut, spending most of his time escaping a less-than-perfect home life hitting balls on the neighboring golf course. He started college at Central Connecticut State but wasn’t challenged by or interested in the schoolwork and recalls, “I just found it way too easy to skip classes and go hit golf balls, so I dropped out and turned pro.” His mom was supportive but told him to look into becoming a PGA professional, so that he could have a career in the golf business if he didn’t turn out to be Jack Nicklaus. He lucked into a first job as assistant pro at Monarch Country Club in Florida and later got the head pro job there at age 23 when ClubCorp acquired the club. After a half-dozen years of teaching and touring, and with the 1997 Golden Bear tournament win under his belt and a bunch of other wins and top finishes on various pro tours, he landed a prestigious spot as assistant pro at the esteemed Shinnecock Golf Course in Southampton, New York. Which is where, in 1999, he met Carl Alexander, the developer of GlenArbor, and when he made the move to Bedford and running the program at this spectacular Gary Player–designed course.
Labritz is a dedicated and renowned teacher but still manages to play professional tournaments about every other week. He loves the career he’s built at Glen-Arbor, giving a shoutout to “the owners who have been nothing but supportive of me in every way, the membership who are an outstanding group, my great team, and this wonderful facility.” But he remains a driven and competitive pro and has his mind set on joining the Senior Championship Tour when he becomes eligible at age 50. “I have the game. What it’s all about at the top level is knowing you can win and believing you will. I have that feeling when I play now in regional events, and I’m really looking forward to the test when it comes to competing with the best in the world.”
As for style, Labritz says: “I do kind of wear mostly golf clothes, but I try to wear the logo stuff at work and the non-logo stuff at home.” He wears a lot of his sponsor, Galvin Green, clothing, but half-jokes: “I’d love for Ralph Lauren to stop by, play a round, and outfit me in Polo RLX.” FootJoy is another of Rob’s sponsors, and he admits to wearing their shoes almost all the time, saying: “Golf shoes are like sneakers now and FootJoys are really nice and comfortable. I think I’ve got over 70 pairs!”
Whatever he’s wearing, players on the Senior Tour should beware; Labritz is coming!