Rob Labritz embraces the journey at U.S. Senior Open Championship

Asoka Elon

BETHLEHEM, Penn. – They arrive on a regular basis, examples of how this thirst for aggressive golf places a grip on you and doesn’t let go. Particularly uncanny are these occasions if you uncover how the sport seeps by way of a household to such a level that out-of-the-ordinary actions appear strange.

Like arriving at 1 a.m. and simply sleeping in your automobile, a transfer that didn’t faze Matthias Labritz. “I didn’t need to get up my dad,” mentioned 19-year-old who had pushed down from Westchester County in New York after a full day’s work at GlenArbor Golf Membership. “I knew he had an early tee time.”

“He” being one of many feel-good tales on the PGA TOUR Champions this yr, Rob Labritz, who stays an inspiration to his son.

“I’ve watched him spend plenty of years grinding, apply, working so arduous,” mentioned Mathias, whose father has been the longtime Director of Golf at GlenArbor. “It’s so nice.”

The story has turn out to be exponentially better after two days of Labritz’s first U.S. Senior Open as he has thrown down a pair of 69s to get midway dwelling in 4-under 138. As he buoyantly expressed his nice pleasure to the media (“I’m a blessed man,” he mentioned), Labritz was tied for the clubhouse lead, solely to be handed by Steve Stricker who completed birdie-birdie to shoot 69 – 137 and get to 5-under.

There was nonetheless a day wave to return, but it surely didn’t put a dent in Labritz’ enthusiasm.

“I’ve been planning on this for a very long time,” he mentioned. “I swore to myself I used to be going to play the Champions Tour.”

Shortly, a competitor who’s a examine in stark distinction to Labritz got here sauntering into the interview space having shot 72 – 139 to get in at 3-under. Jay Haas, 68, outnumbers Labrtiz by a large margin in the case of begins beneath the PGA TOUR umbrella (1,148 to 23), however is on the identical web page concerning the eagerness on which this PGA TOUR Champions Q College medalist was swept into this week’s competitors.

“I feel in case you’ve performed golf most of your life, you take a look at a match like this and, whether or not it’s the primary time or the tenth time, it’s fairly particular (to qualify),” mentioned Haas. “I feel many of the guys really feel like they’ve made it to ‘The Present.’

“You go into the locker room and there’s a locker together with your identify on it. That doesn’t each get previous.”

What additionally doesn’t get previous is how decided opponents maintain their video games in good condition all for the possibility afforded them by the PGA TOUR Champions. In an earlier chapter to his life, Labritz, who grew up in Southington, Conn., was ok to play the Canadian Tour fulltime earlier than he determined a membership job was higher for his rising household.

Figuring out a PGA TOUR Champions strive was approaching, Labritz in 2020 and 2021 had fairly a stretch in his neck of the woods – wins on the Rhode Island Open, Westchester Open, Massachusetts Open, and Vacationers pre-qualifying. “I used to be 4-for-4,” beamed Matthias, who caddied for his father in all these tournaments.

The Q College magic within the fall of 2021 was validation for Labritz, who has adopted by way of with first rate play to date this season. In 11 tournaments, he has one prime 10 and $168,353 to sit down forty eighth on the cash record.

Forty-five years earlier, the PGA TOUR Q College had examined a younger man out of Wake Forest and Haas was equal to the duty. His was a graduating class that included Peter Jacobsen, Mike “Radar” Reid, Don Pooley, Keith Fergus, Graham Marsh, and the late, nice Jack Newton.

Laborious to argue that Haas hasn’t parlayed it into a wonderful profession – 9 PGA TOUR wins, 18 extra on the PGA TOUR Championships, and a mixed $34.13m between the 2 circuits.

Actually, there’s a large disparity between these two careers – the 68-year-old veteran in his forty seventh yr {of professional} golf life with the PGA TOUR and the 51-year-old in his first season underneath the PGA TOUR umbrella.

However there’s barely a distinction between them two rounds into this U.S. Senior Open – Haas at 3-under, one stroke behind Labritz. Chalk it as much as the ageless surprise of a man who jumped into this professional golf life when Gerald Ford was president and the keenness of a man who isn’t about to suppose it’s time to relaxation as a result of he’s made it.

“It’s been a protracted street. I’ve labored my tail off,” mentioned Labritz, who reached down to select up his 17-month-old daughter, Logan, whereas one other daughter, Ryan, 8 soaked within the environment.

“I’m going to work my tail off to remain out right here so I will pay for her faculty when she turns 18.”

Matthias smiled as his father spoke. He simply completed his freshman yr at LSU and mentioned what drew him to Baton Rouge was the will to journey and expertise a distinct a part of the nation.

He enjoys taking part in golf, simply not the ultra-competitive stuff that’s his father’s life. “I need to turn out to be my very own individual,” mentioned Matthias, who in that method could be very very like his dad.

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