By Dalton Balthaser


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PORTSMOUTH, R.I. - Most everyone remembers that Brooks Koepka won the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in May for his fourth major championship victory.


Not everyone remembers who was the low club professional. That was GlenArbor Golf Club’s Rob Labritz.


He also claimed the low club professional honors in 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis.


But Wednesday, Labritz accomplished something in golf he hadn’t before.


Labritz, the Director of Golf at GlenArbor in Bedford Hills, N.Y. for the past 19 seasons, claimed the 88th Rhode Island Golf Association Open Championship after a sizzling bogey-free final round of 66 at Green Valley Country Club (par 71, 6,830 yards).


“I live for winning golf tournaments,” said Labritz, 48, of Pound Ridge, N.Y. “Because winning puts validation on everything that I do. It means a lot to come and redeem myself after giving away the New York State Open. To win this tournament in New England where I am from means everything.”


He three-putted the final hole to head to a playoff in that Open, a playoff he would lose.


Labritz finished at 7 under, three shots clear of Jason Thresher of West Suffield, Conn.


“Any time you mess up, or give something away, that memory stays in your brain for a long time,” said Labritz. “It’s something that you just want to forget and move on. It was nice to follow that disappointment by winning this event.”


Winnapaug Country Club’s Austin Cilley claimed low medalist honors after finishing 36 holes at 2 over.


Labritz erased the three-shot deficit to Day One leader Jon Pannone in his first four holes. He birdied Nos. 1 (par 4, 370 yards), 3 (par 4, 397 yards) and 4 (par 5, 550 yards).


He jumped out of the gates after stuffing a 58-degree wedge from 74 yards to eight feet. Labritz made a 20-footer on No. 3 and two-putted for birdie on No. 4 to grab a share of the lead.


“I figured I couldn’t make any mistakes being three shots back,” said Labritz. “I didn’t know the guys I was playing with. But I know if I go out there and hit fairways, hit greens and eliminate mistakes, I am as good as any of these guys. I wanted to make as many birdies as I could and see where I fell.”


After he made the turn in 4-under-par 31, he had the lead to himself.


He kept the momentum with a clutch par on No. 13 (par 4, 342 yards). After finding the trees off the tee, Labritz had to make a 9-footer to keep the clean card going. He did and he never looked back.


His final birdie of the day came on No. 17 (par 5, 548 yards). He reached the green in two after hitting a 3-iron from 238 yards. Labritz then two-putted from 45 feet to give him the walk most golfers dream about on No. 18. The stress-free kind.


“I love representing my club and my community as best as I can,” said Labritz. “Having my son [Matthias] on the bag and having him see how I handle these situations is what being a dad is all about.”


Not everything has been easy for Labritz like his recent run has indicated. He’s lost a total of six important people in his life recently, making this victory all the more special.


“I’ve dealt with loss more in the last six weeks than I have in my life,” said Labritz. “It’s been hard. My mom [Anna] was the hardest since I spent a lot of years with her. To be able to do this in honor of my family and friends that I have lost means the world.”