Rob Labritz is one of 10 Titleist Staff Professionals in this week's PGA Championship. It is one of the perks for finishing among the top 20 at the PGA Professional National Championship, which could be best described as THE major championship for club professionals.
But for Labritz, the director of golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., he feels it is destiny that he is here at Oak Hill.
And who could blame him?
The 42-year old holed a miraculous wedge shot from 95 yards to capture the final spot in a four-way sudden death playoff at the PNC in the cold and rain of the Sun River Resort in Oregon in June. The shot earned No. 1 "Top Play" honors on ESPN and went viral across the internet.
Team Titleist walked several holes with Labritz on Monday morning, to get his perspective on what has happened to him over the past two months. While Labritz, playing alone, was the first player to tee off on No. 1, Masters champion Adam Scott and fellow Titleist Brand Ambassador Bill Haas were teeing up it up at the same time on No. 10. On Thursday, when the first official round gets under way, it will be Labritz playing in the first threesome at 7:10 a.m.
"It's been and just continues to get crazier," said Labritz, who also qualified for the PGA Championship when it was contested at Oak Hill in 2003 and was the only club pro to make the cut at Whistling Straits in 2010.
Strangers still come up and ask Labritz about his now legendary shot. We were eager to hear the story, too, and this is how Rob described it...
"I was lying two after hitting my drive into a fairway bunker and not able to reach the green in two. I had 95 yards to the pin. One of my playing partners was already on the green and looked to have about 10 feet for birdie. I knew I had to get fairly close, just to make par and hope we could move on with the playoff. I don't like taking full swings in that situation, and being in Oregon, the ball was going to fly about eight percent further. I was playing the new Pro V1x golf ball and there wasn't any doubt regarding my club choice - a Vokey Design SM4 52.12, bent to 53 degrees. I wanted to hit it smooth, about a 65 percent swing. I hit it clean and I was watching it as my caddy walked ahead of me to pick up my divot. I saw the ball bounce once on the green and spin left into the hole. Our high five was a little awkward, but I probably have never been so excited about a single shot in my life."
He actually had to pause the celebration, briefly. Even though Labritz had holed out for birdie, one of his competitors still had the opportunity to match him and continue the playoff. Fortunately for Labritz, it turned out to be a par, and he is here this week, participating in his fourth PGA Championship.
"I'm glad that Bob (Vokey) is here this week," said Labritz, after using the same wedge that he used to hit the 'walk-off wedge shot' during his practice round. "He is the absolute best at what he does, and I got a tweet from him congratulating me after the playoff. I'm going to ask him if he could make me an identical wedge that I can put on display. I have no plans to take this one out of my bag anytime soon!"
On Tuesday, Labritz' wife Kerry was following her husband while he played a practice round with three of the top 23 players in the world, including fellow Titleist Brand Ambassador Jason Dufner. As the crowd continued to grow under the warm sunshine at Oak Hill, Labritz was drinking in the atmosphere, signing autographs and thanking well wishers.
"Isn't this great?," he said. "What could be better than this?"
What's in Rob Labritz' Bag?: Pro V1x golf ball, 913D3 driver (8.5º), 913F.d Low Spin fairway metal (15º), 913H hybrid (19º), 712U 3-iron, AP2 prototype irons (4-7), CB prototype irons (8-9), Vokey Design SM4 pitching (46º) and sand (53º) wedges, Vokey Design TVD lob (58º) wedge, Scotty Cameron Newport 1.5 Select putter.
Follow Rob Labritz on Facebook, Twitter: @RLabritz and at www.RobLabritz.com