HARTFORD, Conn. – The 2020 finale of the PGA of America Tournament Series had a definite Connecticut flavor.
Hartford native and former Central Connecticut State University standout Rob Labritz made a scrambling par from the trees on the final hole for a closing 3-under-par 69, 36-hole total of 4-under 140 and a one-stroke victory in Event No. 6 at the Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. It enabled Labritz, the PGA Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y., to finally notch a victory this year after several close calls.
“My playing partner, Rob Corcoran, told me that Jason Caron got up-down from here to win the PGA Stroke Play Championship,” Labritz said. “I said, ‘OK, let me see if I can do that.’ I took aim over the water and hit a shot that never left the flag. That’s what I’m most proud of.”
Corcoran is a South Windsor native and former Ellington Ridge Country Club assistant pro who lost a playoff to Bob Sowards of Powell, Ohio, in the 2019 Tournament Series finale. Caron, a native of Hyannis, Mass., is a former PGA Tour player who won the 2012 Connecticut Open and several events in the Metropolitan (N.Y.) PGA Section while the pro at the Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, N.Y., where the teaching pro is his wife, the former Liz Janangelo, a four-time All-American at Duke and winner of five Connecticut State Women’s Amateurs, four Connecticut Women’s Opens and nine American Junior Golf Association titles.
Labritz’s clutch shot from the trees stopped 30 feet from the hole, and he two-putted for par to edge frequent Connecticut Open challenger Danny Balin (69) of Great Neck, N.Y., Zac Oakley (72) of Lewes, Del., and Brett Walker (72) of Jupiter, Fla.
“Your heart races, you get excited, when you get in that moment even though I wasn’t exactly sure where I stood,” said Labritz, who earned the $5,000 first prize. “Sometimes you fail. Sometimes you don’t. You try to draw on those moments when you succeed.
“I finally got it done. I had a lot of close calls. It’s great to win. I’m 49, and I’m trying to get ready for the PGA Tour Champions.”
Balin was trying to win a second consecutive PGA Tournament Series event. Four days earlier, he birdied the final two regulation holes and the first playoff hole to beat former PGA Tour player Ben Kern of Georgetown, Texas, and Kyle Donovan of Chicago after the trio tied at 7-under 137.
“That’s why we play the game, to get the juices flowing in the competitive nature of golf,” said Balin, the head pro at Fresh Meadow GC in Lake Success, N.Y., who overcame at four-stroke deficit to Donovan on the back nine. “I’ve been in this situation before. You just want to give yourself a chance for the win or this case to get into the playoff.”
Balin gained notoriety earlier this year when he had actor Mike O’Keefe, who played Danny Noonan in the movie “Caddyshack,” caddied for him during practice rounds for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot GC in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Caron, who was a stroke back after the first round of the season finale, closed with 73 to tie for fifth at 142. Corcoran shot 74 to tie for 21st at 146.
Dylan Newman of Jupiter won the series money title with $13,053, followed by former PGA Tour player Omar Uresti of Austin, Texas ($11,890.83), Labritz ($10,852.91) and Balin ($8,045).
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