PHOENIX — Rob Labritz zipped around Phoenix Country Club in two hours, 45 minutes on Thursday, signing for a 2-under 69 to open the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
But while he played fast in the opening round of the PGA Tour Champions season finale, his journey getting to the senior circuit was nearly two decades in the making.
As the 36th and last man to make the field, Labritz played solo (markers aren’t allowed anymore) after Steve Stricker’s withdrawal the day before led to an odd number of players. But Labritz didn’t seem to mind.
“I used to get 18 holes in with a cart in under an hour at GlenArbor, at my home course,” he said of the private course in Westchester, New York, where he was the long-time director of golf.
A club pro for 32 years in all, Labritz is finally a full-time professional golfer. There were attempts made at a PGA Tour career but that wasn’t meant to be.
“I went to Q school three or four times, I played in eight PGA Championships, won tons of state opens, everything up in the Met section,” he said after his round Thursday. “As a director of golf, I was pretty bored, to be honest. We built a high-end private club, which is phenomenal, but after 32 years I started getting a little…” and before he finished that thought, he revealed a long-held goal.
“Eighteen years ago I made a decision to try to get to the Champions tour. I started manifesting it,” he said. “Every night I would go into my room, right before I went to bed and sit there for five minutes and just envision it happening. I did that for 18 years. And here we are.”
Rob Labritz stands with his caddie on the first hole during the first round of the 2023 Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Phoenix Country Club in Phoenix. (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Without a trace of remorse for decisions that he made, Labritz explained that life just happened.
“I felt like I was close but I always knew I was a part-time player because I had a full-time job. As a director of golf, I coached more than a thousand, 1,400 hours a year for 23 years, so think about how many hours I was putting into the job, 60-80 hours a week,” he said.
“When you have a wife and three kids and a mortgage, it’s hard to just say ‘OK, I’m going to go practice. You figure out the money.'”
Playing in his 52nd event this week in his second year on the Champions tour, Labtriz has figured out the money, having earned more than $1.1 million. But more than that, what he’s doing validates all those nights he envisioned such a future.
“I’m in dream heaven right now.”
No more worrying about those long work weeks. No more trying to figure out how to find time to practice. It’s full speed ahead as a player.
“It’s all about getting the ball in the hole right now,” he said.