FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (May 18, 2019) – There’s a separate contest going on within the 2019 PGA Championship. It’s a chase for crystal, not silver.
PGA Club Professionals Marty Jertson of Phoenix, Arizona; Rob Labritz of Pound Ridge, New York; and Ryan Vermeer of Omaha, Nebraska – fresh from surviving the 36-hole cut at Bethpage Black – continued their duel Saturday to claim Low Club Professional honors.
Their collective goal is a crystal cup, to be presented Sunday before a global television audience on the 18th green.
There’s a pride factor for the PGA Club Professional, said Vermeer, who swept the 2018 PGA Professional Championship and PGA Professional Player of the Year award. “This year, and year in and year out, it is the toughest field in golf. And that is with 20 club pros playing. But, this is our Championship, I think deservedly so, and we have 20 spots. But it is very important that club pros come out here and play well.”
Though the struggles to navigate Bethpage Black persisted for the trio, there is a Sunday finish line in sight after a special week.
Vermeer, the PGA Director of Instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, posted a 2-over-par 72 for a 216 total and a two-stroke edge over Labritz, the PGA Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York, who had a 74 and 218.
Jertson, the Vice President of Fitting and Performance for PING, hit only three fairways on his way to a 79 and 220 total.
Despite the rough finish, there were no complaints among the trio. Labritz was supported around the course by club members and friends, including at least 50 wearing t-shirts with “Rob’s Mob” printed on the back. Labritz shared that his mobile phone had 242 texts and counting.
“I just love it. I love getting the crowd behind everything here,” said Labritz, playing in his sixth PGA Championship. “I love interacting with them. I’m a PGA pro. I’m not a PGA TOUR player. So, any bit that I can do this and make everybody’s day, make them have a good time out here and get the crowd going, that’s what I am all about.”
Vermeer, Labritz and Jertson represent the largest PGA Club Professional contingent to make the weekend in the Championship since the PGA of America began its 20-player exemption in 2006. The last time three or more PGA Club Professionals played the final 36 holes was in 2005 when four players advanced. But that was when the PGA allowed 35 exemptions into the field.
Jertson was brandishing a 410 PING driver that he designed over the past year, but said his mechanics were off today. “I did not drive it at all like I did the first two rounds. So, it was all off the tee,” he said.
The last leg of the journey for PGA Club Professionals to reach the PGA Championship ended on May 1, when 20 earned a berth at the PGA Professional Championship at Belfair in Bluffton, South Carolina.
“The talent that is in our national championship is getting better and better,” said Jertson. “And I think especially Rob, myself and Ryan have a lot of tour and tournament experience. I think the three of us are probably a bit more comfortable and not as overwhelmed by having to play here on the big stage.”