SPRINGFIELD, N.J. – Picking up the dry cleaning was not on the agenda.
Brian Gaffney would’ve been tasked a host of household duties any other Monday, but the 45-year-old head professional at Quaker Ridge was enjoying a rare break from routine.
He was back in the old neighborhood tuning up for the 98th PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club.
Getting here affords Gaffney an opportunity to postpone the multiple jobs of a club professional and focus on his own game. The respite is only guaranteed to last five days.
Making the cut extends the stay.
“I’m living the life here,” said Gaffney, who grew up some three miles from Baltusrol in Westfield, N.J. “I’m so lucky. This is so cool on every level.”
The scene was a long way from ordinary.
“Monday is normally the one day I have off each week,” said Gaffney, who finished as the low club professional at Whistling Straits a year ago. “Unless I’m playing in a local tournament, we clean up the house, take care of the yard, go to the dry cleaner, run errands, play with the kids and the day is done.”
There are usually some emails from Quaker Ridge to answer, too.
Instead of sweating over a member’s swing on the lesson tee at GlenArbor on Monday, Rob Labritz was playing nine holes long before thunderstorms rolled in and working on his short game.
“Running the golf operations for a club, playing in a major championship, that’s a pretty big departure for me,” the 45-year-old resident of Pound Ridge said. “I get to work solely on my game this week. I’m not at the club teaching. I’m just here playing, which is very nice.”
It’s good to be a king for the week.
Gaffney is making his fifth PGA Championship appearance, but this one is very different because of the proximity to home. He also worked at several area clubs prior to landing at Quaker Ridge.
Ordinarily, he would only work on his own game for an hour in the early-morning light.
“This week is hugely different,” Gaffney said. “Normally, I run to work in the morning. I try to practice beforehand from 6 to 7 a.m. or so, then I work until 6:30 p.m. at night. Here, I don’t have to respond to every e-mail. I spoke to my staff before I left, so I can focus selfishly on me and get prepared the best I can.”
Unless the rain is pouring down, each day at the club is hectic.
“I probably give two or three lessons a day,” Gaffney added. “I look after the staff, checking in every time I’m by the golf shop to make sure everyone is doing what they need to do and seeing if anything has come up. I also check in on the outside operations and then I’ll spend time by the first tee, shaking hands, saying hello. If members have guests, they need to be acknowledged.”
Labritz is also juggling multiple tasks, but spends a lot of the day on the lesson tee.
“I don’t have a day off, so I’d normally be teaching all day,” he said of his typical Monday. “I usually teach 35-40 hours a week. And then I do what I need to run the golf operations. I still find time for my workouts and get some practice in. I have the best family on the planet. They’ll come out to the golf course when I practice so we can spend some time together.”
They will be here all week, too.
So will members and longtime friends, which is something both competitors are looking forward to.
“The hard part is making sure I have time for somebody who came along way to say hello,” Gaffney said. “I have to acknowledge those people, check in and see how they are, and then move along. That’s my challenge this week.”
Along with time in the practice areas, both players got in nine holes before the heat and humidity peaked.
Doing too much will not be an issue.
“I’m coming off a couple of wins in the section with the Westchester Open and the New York State Open, so I’m playing solid golf,” said Labritz, who was the low club professional in 2010 at Whistling Straits. “I just need to pace myself. It’s easy to overdo the practice. You want to spend time here and work on everything, but this is my fifth time in the PGA so I’m just going to relax, go to the pool later. The first couple of majors I played in, you just grind and grind and grind. It doesn’t do you any good. I have my routine.”
Gaffney is on board with that plan.
“Last year was the first year I scaled the practice back and I made the cut, so I’m going to do that again,” he said. “I played nine holes this morning. I’ll play nine on Tuesday and nine on Wednesday.”