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Weiss: Rob Labritz One of Few Who Can Relate to Michael Block



Rob Labritz (left) signs an autograph. (ZAC WEISS/PGN)

It was a classic Sunday at the Pittsford Pub in Rochester, New York, but by no means was this an episode of Cheers. Absolutely no one knew Michael Block’s name at the start of PGA Championship week, but within a few days’ time, all that would change.

When 72 holes fell in his rear-view mirror, Block not only ensured the best finish by a club pro at the PGA Championship since 1986 and secured a trip to Valhalla in 2024, but also was beloved by the masses at Oak Hill Country Club.

“This week’s been absolutely a dream,” Block said following Sunday’s final round. “I didn’t know it was going to happen, but I knew if I just played my darned game, that I could do this. I always knew it.

“I cry about golf, to be honest. I have cried only a couple times in my life. When I won the National Championship in 2014 in Myrtle Beach … I cried, and after that, my wife hasn’t seen me cry until this week.”

Block was not the only one crying, as PGA Tour Champions player Rob Labritz could not keep his composure while history was unfolding. He could relate, having been the low club pro in both the 2010 and 2019 PGA Championships.

Labritz, now 51, firmly believes that for a club pro, the four days of competition the PGA Championship provide could change your life.

A 31-year club pro who also had duties as the director of golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York, and was an eight-time competitor in his own right at the PGA Championship, could not stop watching what was unfolding on such a national stage.

Labritz knows Block from the few rounds each played together, which included a round at Turning Stone following the latter’s 2014 National Club Professional Championship victory, that saw both punch a ticket to the 2016 PGA Championship. The pair also communicate through Instagram.

Now Labritz, who admits he does not frequently watch golf on television, was live tweeting with excitement as Block thrilled the nation.

“I kept finding my hairs standing up on my arms and tears coming into my eyes for the guy,” Labritz recalled. “I am absolutely thrilled that his life changed in four days. It’s always something I’ve said, I became a PGA member to play in the PGA Championship because I always believed those four days could change your life.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t happen to me, but it happened to somebody else. I’ve seen him emotional and listened to his voice crack and I can totally relate and understand what he is going through. I wish him nothing but the best, he’s just so deserving, and I know he doesn’t consider himself a PGA TOUR player, but he’s got a tour game.”

What Block did, not only captivated an audience which may not regularly watch golf, but he very well may have overshadowed Brooks Koepka, who earned the right to lift the Wanamaker Trophy for his fifth major title.

Block played steady golf all weekend, doing so in front of competitors including Justin Rose, who he has idolized, and Rory McIlroy, the four-time major winner and reigning FedExCup champion.

On the first tee, Block’s ovation was the loudest of the entire week and though things were not as easy for him, he held his nerve, recording a slam-dunk ace on the 15th hole and then finding a way to get up and down from the gallery on the 18th hole.

Everyone loves a good underdog story, but Block’s tale is one which will always be told.

“He handled himself tremendously well and he’s just a likable guy,” stated Labritz. “He’s everybody’s guy, that’s what he portrayed and what everybody fell in love with. The ace is obviously impressive, you’re always aiming at the flag, but to jar it like that was pretty cool.

“The impressiveness was getting up and down on 18, making that last putt, that was really cool. I know he wanted to get around even par. It was an impressive up and down from off the tee. To do that was incredible, I think God touched him on the head a few times.”

Block’s story took another turn shortly after he completed play Sunday when he was called into a room where a phone call awaited him. On the other end was the Charles Schwab Challenge tournament director Michael Tothe, offering him a spot in the field for this week’s tournament in Fort Worth.

As Block shed more tears, he happily accepted delaying his return to an eagerly-awaiting Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club for another week.

Following his second consecutive PGA Tour stop, Block will have a week off to reflect and then will compete in the RBC Canadian Open.

While it is unknown how Block will do, what is known is that he has been able to regularly compete with PGA Tour players Patrick Cantlay and Beau Hossler, among others, and that certainly helped his mentality at Oak Hill, where his game was certainly able to play.

Colonial Country Club is another course which can suit his eye.

With his life now changed, Block will certainly receive his share of opportunities and Labritz advised him to not change much.

As a club pro, a lot of times your own game can be neglected and while he certainly will hit more than a bucket of balls this week, Labritz believes working on short game, having a game plan and being true to yourself will allow for him to achieve success this week.

At 46, Block is four years away from potentially joining Labritz on the PGA Tour Champions, though he would have to grind through Q-School, where five cards are awarded each year. It would be about getting on and then maintaining his status.

For now, Block has the opportunity to drop the first one in his current occupation with some good play and make his PGA Tour appearances a more common occurrence, something which suited Labritz just fine.

“It’s almost like a rebirth, a new adventure and new adventures are always fun to do,” Labritz assessed. “For me I love working on it every day, it’s a dream come true. I get to play with the greatest players that ever played and watched them growing up. Learning from them is a dream come true.”

Through all of the press coverage and adulation received, Block has stayed within himself and when he tees it up on Thursday there are high expectations.

Each shot will now have a large gallery, cameras and press attached with it, and for Block that is just fine with him.

“I’m like the new John Daly, but I don’t have a mullet, and I’m not quite as big as him yet,” concluded Block. “I’m just a club professional; right? I work. I have fun. I have a couple boys that I love to play golf with. I have a great wife. I have great friends. I live the normal life. I love being at home. I love sitting in my backyard.

“It’s been a surreal experience, and I had this weird kind of sensation that life is going to be not quite the same moving forward, but only in a good way, which is cool.”

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