Local pro’s ‘big sacrifice’ lets him live PGA Championship dream

The mission was accomplished by Rob Labritz this week.

No, he didn’t win the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. But he played. And he played well enough to make the cut and play all four days. It was a memory he’ll have for a lifetime. Right before winner Brooks Koepka received the Wanamaker Trophy, Labritz was given a crystal bowl for his accomplishment.

Sunday’s final round, during which he shot 72, was his 73rd competitive tournament round on the Black Course, on which he’s won three New York State Opens.

“When this was announced here a few years ago, my caddie said to me, ‘You have to make it here,’ ’’ said Labritz, who is the director of golf at the GlenArbor Golf Course in Bedford Hills, N.Y. “I went to my wife and said one thing I want to do is play at Bethpage in a major championship, and she said, ‘Of course you do, because you’ve won many State Opens there.’ We made it our point to even during the winter, every other week I would travel down to Florida and work out at the PGA Village, hitting golf balls, playing in tournaments, playing the winter series.

“I have a few students down there that I teach, so I come down and I would wrap in some coaching with some playing. … I didn’t see my family much this winter. It was a big sacrifice because we wanted to make sure my game was sharp enough to compete.’’

Labritz, when he speaks about Bethpage Black, refers to the course as “she.’’

“I’ve always called her a girl — she’s a hard test, and if you’re nice to her and if you take care of her, she will treat you nicely,’’ he said. “If you’re not so nice and you hit it off-line and you swear at her or get mad at her, she’s going to beat you up.’’

Asked if he would want his ashes spread over Bethpage Black, Labritz said, “I do. This place is a special place to me. I might take a quarter of them and maybe go to Shinnecock [where he was an assistant pro], too.’’

The top-four finishers and ties will receive invitations into the 2020 Masters for players otherwise not qualified. So Matt Wallace and Patrick Cantlay, who finished tied for third qualify for that.

Lucas Bjerregaard aced the 206-yard par-3 17th hole Sunday. A few minutes later, his playing partner, Lucas Glover, the 2009 U.S. Open winner at Bethpage, holed out from the greenside bunker on 17 for a birdie.

One of the wildest last three days was authored by 48-year-old 2002 PGA Championship winner Rich Beem, who birdied five of his final six holes on Friday to make the cut on the number at 4-over par and followed that by shooting 82 in Saturday’s third round. Beem closed out his week by shooting one of the few subpar rounds of the day, a 1-under-par 69.

“This is not what I do anymore,” said Beem, who’s now an on-course commentator for Sky Sports.

Beem, who’d missed 11 cuts and broken par in only five rounds since his 2002 win in the PGA, said, “Making the cut is just silly. Me making the cut shows the guys I can still slap it around. … But I usually don’t walk this much. Usually, I play golf with a cart and a cooler of beer.”

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