It’s been a magic-carpet kind of ride for Rob Labritz during his rookie season on the PGA Tour Champions.
He’s gotten to play alongside some of the legends of the game while banking more than a half-million dollars.
His favorite moment of this year?
“This whole year has been a moment,” he said Tuesday.
Can the longtime club pro earn more memorable moments? That’s his quest this week.
Labritz enters the TimberTech Championship at Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club in Boca Raton ranked 40th on the PGA Tour Champions’ playoff points list.
Only the top 36 after this week earn fully exempt status on next year’s PGA Tour Champions.
Labritz needs a good week to keep his full-time job. A really good week.
No pressure, huh?
“I’m just taking it like another week,” Labritz said. “I’ve prepared myself physically and mentally. My game is ready. I just hope everything clicks.”
Labritz won’t be done with the PGA Tour Champions if he finishes outside the top 36. Due to injuries, players ranked between 37th and 40th will get plenty of starts next year. Shane Bertsch, who was 37th last year, has played in 25 events this year.
But there’s a big difference between being able to set your schedule and playing when you get a late opportunity. Moreover, Labritz can’t drop any more spots unless he wants to return to q-school.
Rob Labritz fist bumps his caddie on the 15th hole during the second round at the 2022 U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley C.C. (Old Course) in Bethlehem, Pa. on Friday, June 24, 2022. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)
“The key for me this week is to have fun and hopefully get in the top 5 or top 10,” he said. “If I don’t, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. I don’t want to predict success or failure.”
No matter what happens this week, it’s been a remarkable story for Labritz, who played on the South Fork High golf team in the late-1980s after his family moved from Connecticut to the Treasure Coast.
Labritz worked as a PGA Professional at several Florida clubs in the early-1990s while also playing mini-tours. He moved to New York in 2001 to become director of golf at GlenArbor Golf Club, the club giving him time to qualify for eight PGA Championships.
He defied the odds last fall when he was medalist at Q-School to earn his spot on the PGA Tour Champions. He was so happy, he cried. Tom Watson and Gary Player called Labritz to congratulate him.
Then came the difficult part: Proving he belonged.
Labritz has had three top-10s in 24 starts, highlighted by a tie for fourth place at the U.S. Senior Open. That finish moved Labritz into the top 36 in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, but he dropped to 40th after finishing T66 in the first playoff event two weeks ago.
“That was a bummer because I could have solidified my spot,” said Labritz, who has earned $531,913 this season. “I know I belong, but I also know I have holes in my game that I need to work on.”
Labritz is about 17,000 points behind No. 36 Mike Weir entering the TimberTech Championship. With points doubled during the playoffs, Labritz needs to earn at least $9,000 more this week than the four players ahead of him – and hope nobody passes him – to earn another fully exempt year on the PGA Tour Champions.
Labritz has several factors going for him this week: He loves playing in Florida and, because the TimberTech Championship moved to Royal Palm this year while its regular course at Broken Sound is under renovation, Labritz isn’t spotting the rest of the field years of course knowledge.
The only course on the tour he previously played before this year? Saucon Valley, where he finished fourth in the U.S. Senior Open.
“Darn right playing in Florida helps,” he said. “I’ll keep it going. You know me – I have a flair for the dramatic.”
His ride isn’t over.
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Story originally appeared on GolfWeek