BEDFORD – Rob Labritz is in a good place.
The director of golf at GlenArbor has all kinds of momentum after qualifying for the PGA Championship with a dramatic putt last week. The 45-year-old is back at home this week in pursuit of a Westchester Open title on a layout he knows better than anyone in the field.
“It’s my home course, so everything feels comfortable,” said Labritz, who opened with a 7-under 65 and is one shot off the lead with 36 holes to play.
There was just one blemish on the scorecard, a triple bogey.
“I played great,” said Labritz, who missed the 11th green and was left with a horrific lie on the short par 3. “Even on that hole, I hit six quality shots. To have played a course a million times more than any of your competitors, it makes a big difference.”
The putter did not cool, either.
“My last competitive putt was that 35-footer at Turning Stone that got me into the PGA Championship,” Labritz said. “I
made a 40-footer on No. 1. I made a 40-footer on No. 2 and made a three-footer on three, so I started with three birdies.”
Peter Ballo headed into Wednesday holding a one-shot lead.
The 25-year-old assistant pro at Old Oaks got rolling with an eagle on the first hole, and never looked back.
“It was a good day all day,” he said. “Starting like that gave me a lot of confidence.
There is some family history at the Westchester Open.
His older brother captured the championship in 2012, surviving in a playoff.
“I was there at Wykagyl a couple years back watching Michael win,” Ballo said. “This is going to be a good test for me, a chance to see where my game is. There are lots of good players in this field, and they can come back from almost anywhere. I shot 64 and Rob shot 65 so you know there are some good numbers out there. You just never know who’s going to do it.”
Dennis Hillman, who teaches at The Golf Performance Center in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and Frank Bensel, a Century assistant, are tied for third at 5-under.
The positive feedback has Bensel excited about what could be next.
“It’s funny,” said Bensel, who was 4-under on his last nine. “I just haven’t been able to put it together and score. I haven’t scored well this year, but I feel like every round that I’ve played, I’ve played better than what my score indicated. It’s just a matter of breaks, so it was nice to shoot a good round.’’
Nearly an inch of rain overnight Monday softened GlenArbor.
“I played Monday night and it was firmer,” Labritz said. “I didn’t know what to expect coming out here this morning, but the greens were like dart boards. You can stick your approach shots right in there. If we don’t get any more rain, we might get a bounce or two on Wednesday.”
A total of 49 players shot 73 or better to survive the cut, including Innis Arden’s Jessica Carafiello, who is believed to be the first woman to advance past the first round of the championship.
94th Westchester Golf Association Open
At GlenArbor Golf Club
1. Peter Ballo, Old Oaks 64
2. Rob Labritz, GlenArbor 65
3. Frank Bensel, Century 67
3. Dennis Hillman, Golf Performance Center 67
5. Jeffrey Schaller, Twaalfskill 68
5. Tyler Cline (a), Tuxedo 68
5. Brian Gaffney, Quaker Ridge 68
8. John Bushka, Aspetuck Valley 69
8. Christian Cavaliere, Mahopac 69
10. Nick Bova, Siwanoy 70
10. Dave Fusco, Patriot Hills 70
10. Tony DeMaria, Westchester Driving Range 70
10. Patrick Schwarze, Wykagyl 70