In four days at Oak Hill, Michael Block, a 46-year-old PGA pro from Mission Viejo California, had his life changed at the PGA Championship. Block gained the attention and admiration of hundreds of thousands of golf fans with his extremely impressive yet relatable golf skills on Thursday in the first round of golf’s second major.
Block then achieved his lifelong goal of finishing as the lowest scoring club pro on Friday (no other pro made the cut) and stunned fans by thriving under the pressure of Major Championship contention. On Sunday in the PGA Championship’s final round, Block cemented his legacy as a national superstar with the first hole-in-one of the tournament.
Block is not a professional golfer like the other 75 players that made the cut at the PGA Championship. Block is a club pro, an expert golfer that teaches newer players and helps run the golf club. He was ranked over 3,500 spots below his Sunday playing partner, Rory McIlroy heading into golf’s second major.
Block is an underdog in every sense and his performance at the PGA Championship epitomizes golf’s greatest strengths.
It’s not about who is playing, it’s about how they’re playing
I’m positive Block’s outstanding top 15 performance will continue the common misconceptions that surround golf. “Golf is a mental sport” (wrong, 5-time major champion Brooks Koepka once said, his only swing thought was “hit it and go”)
“Golf is a precision sport like darts that doesn’t require athleticism” (it’s no coincidence that Golf’s greatest player, Tiger Woods, is also one of the Sport’s greatest athletes).
The reality is Block finishing ahead of reigning Masters Champion Jon Rahm is a miracle, but it's feasible any given week due to golf’s nature. A solid scratch golfer at their best is consistently better than one of the best golfers in the world playing just ok. Block was playing the best golf he possibly could at the PGA Championship and it allowed him to pull off the unthinkable.
Average joes are given life-changing opportunities
On Thursday night I was first introduced to Michael Block via his interview with Scott Van Pelt. I, like most people, wondered how a 46-year-old golf teacher ranked #3,580 in the world even qualified to be a part of the 156-man field at the PGA Championship. Block qualified because he finished top-20 in the PGA Professional championship.
Because the PGA of America (those in charge of the PGA Championship), understand that everyday, amateur golfers like Block or Sam Bennett (low amateur at the masters) are celebrated by the majority of Golf’s fanbase because they are relatable. Golf’s willingness to give opportunities to amateur players, who are skilled yet not extremely talented, on its biggest stage, differentiates it from other sports. Block wasn’t driving the ball 350 yards like some other players, and just like fans sitting on the couch watching the tournament, Block made the ultimate mistake in golf with a shank in round 2.
Even playing at his best, Block had zero chance of winning the PGA championship. A more talented player would have had their A-game ready for the Tournament and Block would be defeated. So what difference does it make if an amateur is given a chance to compete if they can’t win? For Block and so many golf fans around the world, it meant everything.
Winning isn’t everything
So much of Sports debate and conversation surrounding Sports like Basketball and Football begins and ends with winning. Much of the same is true in golf, but as Block proved at the PGA so many professional and amateur golfers have much to gain from quality finishes. Coming into the week, Block’s main goal was to finish as the best Club Pro. After two rounds of impressive scores of 70-70 at the PGA Championship not only did Block accomplish that goal, but he became a fan favorite as many fans signed up to take lessons from him.
Under the spotlight of national television on Saturday, Block shot another even-par round of 70. Despite having already accomplished his main goals of making the cut and finishing as the lowest club pro at the major, Block had everything at stake going into the final round. If Block played well in the final round of the tournament he could make hundreds of thousands of dollars, and qualify for next year’s PGA championship.
Block’s chances of winning the PGA Championship were over when he entered the 15th tee box, but still hundreds of thousands of dollars, future events, and most importantly his legacy on the line. With mounting pressure resting on his shoulders, Block hit one of the most iconic shots in Golf history into the 151-yard par-3 15th. Block’s tee-shot went directly into the hole, and he hit the 2023 PGA Championship first and only hole-in-one.
Block needed to finish in the top 15 to qualify for the 2024 PGA Championship, he shot a 71 to finish in a tie for 15th. Block made nearly $300,000 for the week, and accepted invites to two PGA tour events in the next three weeks.
Block ultimately proved that even finishing 15th in a tournament can be life-changing.
Bobby Gorbett is a junior studying journalism. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Bobby know by tweeting him @GorbettBobby.