A Life Changing Week for Michael Block
If you were to script Michael Block’s week, some Hollywood screenwriter would tell you to dial down the fairy tale.
Turns out, sometimes you need to let the magic happen rather than prepare for it.
Block, who shot a 1-over 71 on Sunday, ended up 1 over for the championship and tied for 15th – earning his way into next year’s PGA Championship at Valhalla.
How can you not be romantic about golf?
“My life’s changed, but my life’s only changed for the better,” Block said. “I've got my family. I've got my friends. I've got the people that really love me and care about me here. It's an epic experience.”
Oh, and he made a hole-in-one Sunday.
Block dunked his tee ball on the fly on the 151-yard, par-3 15th. He couldn’t believe it. Rory McIlroy, Block’s playing partner, did. They embraced. McIlroy had a big smile. That hole, McIlroy said, gave him “fits” all week, as it didn’t fit his eye. Not Block, and not on Sunday. He had three aces in his life previously, but none in a tournament.
“I think with the way the week's went for him, it was a fitting way to cap off his PGA Championship,” McIlroy said.
The 46-year-old Block embraced the moment all week, and the crowds embraced him, too. He’s an everyman who teaches lessons for $150 per hour at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif. On Saturday, the night before the final round of a major championship, he appeared at a local pub and took photos with whoever asked.
Block was the man of the people all week, certainly, but even his fellow pros noticed how special of a guy he was.
“The atmosphere out there, playing with Michael, was unbelievable,” McIlroy said. “We both got amazing support, but you know, he got unbelievable support, understandably so, being in this position as a club pro and playing so well and competing into the latter stages of a major championship. It was really impressive.”
“He’s a great dude. He’s been fun,” said Brooks Koepka, the winner of the PGA Championship.
Back to the golf, if only for a minute. It was Block’s performance on the course, after all, that prompted his fellow pros to heap praise and the world-at-large to fall in love. He even received a sponsor invite into next week’s PGA TOUR event, the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial. An hour later, he received another exemption into the RBC Canadian Open.
Block opened with bogey on the par-4 first hole for the second straight day. He ran off a string of five straight pars before making bogey on the par-4 seventh, making the turn at 2 over. He held on for five straight pars again, from Nos. 10-14 before the ace on No. 15.
Perhaps with too much adrenaline pumping, he bogeyed No. 16 and needed to hold on to stay inside that top-15 number. He made a scrambling par on the 72nd hole, his putt from just over 7 feet curling in on the right side of the hole.
For a tournament that had 99 of the top 100 in the world to start the week, Block outperformed nearly all of them. He was sixth in strokes gained: putting (“The greens were perfect here. So, the hole looks huge to me”). For all the celebratory drinks, high-fives, and deserved kudos, it was an impressive display of golf.
“This week's been absolutely a dream. I didn't know it was going to happen, but I knew if I just played my darned game, right, that I could do this,” Block said. “I always knew it.”
Block admitted, perhaps bashfully, that he didn’t cry at the birth of his kids. He cried this week, though. A lot. That’s what golf means to him.
“My big goal this week was to be the low club pro, right? And that maybe meant shooting 9 over after two days and beating other guys and then shooting 25 over on the weekend, right? I could have been happy with that, but I wasn't,” said Block, who earned just over $288,000 this week. “I did that playing golf and I love the fact that I sit in my backyard by my fire pit with my kids and my dog, and I always tell them this. I always say: Do you guys know that golf built this? Golf fed you tonight. Golf has the yard; golf supplied the home that I have in Orange County, California. Golf did this for you guys.
“I always tell this to my kids that golf did it, and golf just did a little bit more for me this week.”
Before Sunday’s finale, Block was asked if he was enjoying this.
Turns out, ‘this’ was a pretty big deal. Find the PGA Championship history books – Block has installed himself into most of them this week. It was the best finish by a PGA Professional in the last 35 years.
And he did it all with a big smile.
“I’ll look back at [this week] and I’ll say, ‘I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m glad you enjoyed the moment,’” Block said.
You enjoy these moments, Michael Block. You earned it.
See you next year.