Blockbuster: The Michael Block Story

2023 PGA Championship - Final Round
Getty Images

As a PGA of America Golf Professional with decades of lessons under his belt, Michael Block had an inkling that he’d be able to connect with doughy middle-aged men as the golf instructor and Head Professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, California.

With a gregarious personality and a smooth-as-silk golf game, the four-time Southern California PGA Championship winner assumed if he found his way into the spotlight at the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill, he might resonate with the group he resembled.

But the others? The thousands of adoring fans chanting his name in the Rochester suburb of Pittsford as they followed him at the storied East Course designed by Donald Ross? Or the millions more watching him on subsequent TV interviews after his Sunday ace propelled him into a tie for 15th place, the highest a PGA of America Golf Professional had finished in decades?

Even the cheery Block didn’t think he’d make all those connections.

“I thought I was just going to hit a chord with like 40-year-old … what do they call them? Dadbods. I thought I was going to hit a chord with them, which I think I did, but I think I hit a chord with all the other ones too, which is really, really cool,” Block said. “I met a lot of young people and old people and middle-aged people and whatever else.”

The then-46-year-old club pro aced the 151-yard 
par-3 15th hole at Oak Hill on Sunday with a 7-iron. Block, who was playing alongside Rory McIlroy, sent his tee shot into the air at “Plateau,” the shortest hole on the course, and dunked it.

“No, no way,” he said as the crowd erupted. “Are you kidding me?”

McIlroy smiled widely and slapped Block’s hand and gave him a congratulatory bear hug and tap to the belly.

“I’m like, ‘Why is Rory giving me a hug?’” Block said. “Rory is giving me a hug for hitting it 3, 4, 5 feet? That’s weird. I’m like, ‘I think I just made it.’”

It was the 29th ace in the PGA Championship since 1983.

These PGA of America Members work so, so hard. And it’s gotten harder since COVID. We were the first sport back. We did an amazing job as an industry and through the golf boom.
Kris Hart

And while fans from all walks of life were rallying in Block’s corner as he put together the improbable charge, perhaps the group that was pulling for him the most was his own brethren — fellow PGA of America Golf Professionals.

Kris Hart is the Senior Director of Growth and Ventures at the PGA of America and a Golf Professional himself. When Block made the cut in 2023, he said the buzz throughout the PGA of America world reverberated. Now working from the organization’s new home in Frisco, Texas, Hart said text chains and hallway chatter focused on Block’s play.

“There was just so much excitement in the halls when you saw what Michael did. As a group we’re like, all right, let’s go. Because there’s criticism, right? There’s 20 PGA of America Golf Professionals in the field. People are always asking, ‘Do they make the cut?’ Well, when someone not just makes a cut but performs and does something amazing like what Michael did, that really elevates things and makes it so much better.”

The top 20 finishers in the PGA Professional Championship are exempt into the PGA Championship: Block checked that box for the fifth time by finishing tied for second in 2023. He had missed the cut in all six majors he’d previously played in and had made the cut in just four of 24 career starts on the PGA Tour, the last in 2015 and the best a T-69.

But as he pulled into the top 10 on the leaderboard at Oak Hill for a stretch, those who also teach the game rallied behind him, hoping to will him to victory.

“It’s just a reminder to people that these players do belong,” Hart said. “I mean, they’re golf professionals. They’re not training every single day but they’re unbelievable players. And they’re even better people. If you think about how you have to balance this life, balancing your job, family and everything, it’s not easy.

“Look, I’m a PGA of America Golf Professional myself. I have a day job. I love to play, and can play well at times, but it’s good one day, and not so good on other days. That’s what made what Michael did so special.”

While the ace certainly helped Block, who needed a top-15 finish to secure a return visit to the PGA in 2024 at Valhalla, it was a clutch up-and-down par on the closing hole that sealed it, giving him a final-round 71 and punching his ticket for this week. Among the PGA Tour elite that Block’s 1-over 281 total beat last year: Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, Max Homa and Dustin Johnson.

After his round, and after doing a session in the media center, he got a call from the tournament director at the Charles Schwab Challenge, who offered Block the final sponsor exemption. Block accepted the call on speaker phone and he and his wife got emotional with the good news. He also received an invite to the RBC Canadian Open. Plus, for his work on the course, Block earned $288,333.

His day at Oak Hill was topped off by joining the set of Golf Channel’s “Live From,” and chopped it up with Rich Lerner, Brandel Chamblee and Brad Faxon.

And PGA of America Members far and wide soaked up every minute.

“These PGA of America Members work so, so hard. And it’s gotten harder since COVID. We were the first sport back. We did an amazing job as an industry and through the golf boom,” Hart said. “What does that mean? For PGA of America Golf Professionals and the staff that work at golf courses, it’s hard. People and consumers are tough and they demand more and then when you have more consumers and more rounds than you’ve ever had before, it’s a lot to deal with.

“But the fact that they can do that and be able to play the game, well, it’s pretty cool. It’s pretty cool what Michael did. And he really did it for all of us.”