Club Pro Michael Block Chases History at PGA Championship

Michael Block wasn’t supposed to still be in Rochester, N.Y. on Sunday. The 46-year-old club pro from Mission Viejo, Calif. had a flight booked home for Saturday morning at 10 a.m. But the breakout star of the PGA Championship scuttled those plans with back-to-back rounds of 70 to make the cut before tacking on a third straight even-par 70 on Saturday.

Block will tee off Sunday at Oak Hill Country Club tied for eighth and with a shot at history. He is paired with Rory McIlroy. They are both chasing Brooks Koepka, who at -6 is a stroke ahead of Corey Conners and Viktor Hovland.

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The charm of the PGA Championship is the addition of club pros in the event. Block has qualified for the major five times. He teed off the 2023 version with a goal to make the cut and be the low club pro. The bar has most certainly been raised.

“I love Rosey, but I can compete against these guys, to be honest,” Block said referring to his Saturday playing partner, Justin Rose. “I can compete against them. I can hang. I can post a 3 [under] or 4 under tomorrow, especially if I get the fairways rolling again.”

Bob Boyd in 1990 was the last club pro in the top 10 after 54 holes. The best finish ever in the PGA Championship by a club pro was a tie for 11th by Lonnie Nelson in 1986 and Tommy Aycock in 1974. If Block can finish in fourth, he will secure an invite to the 2024 Masters.

The PGA of America raised the prize money for the golf event this year to $17.5 million, up from $15 million in 2022. The winner will receive $3.15 million, and eighth place is worth $535,000.

Block is headed for a career best payday. He has played 24 PGA Tour events since 2007 and made four cuts, with the last one in 2015. His best finish ever in an event was a tie for 69th at the 2014 Sanderson Farms Championship and his season high prize money came in 2014-15, totaling $14,960.

Block’s biggest payday came outside the Tour, which he explained after the third round. “[Most I’ve made is] $75,000, 2014, Club Professional National Championship at the Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach,” Block said. “There was the 2001 California State Open for $4,500 for a long, long time, and when I got $75K in one tournament, I was very happy.”

He qualified for the PGA Championship by finishing second last month in the 2023 PGA Professional Championship.

Block has charmed fans, the media and other players with his feel-good vibe all week. “I’m living the dream,” Block told Jim Nantz during a “walk-and-talk” on Saturday on the 14th hole. Talking to the “Hello, friends” broadcaster didn’t phase his play. He birdied the hole and the next one.

Block said he charges $150 for a one-hour lesson at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club. Block gave a simple reason why he chose the club pro route instead of the PGA Tour grind when his kids were younger. “I don’t want to have to make putts to pay my mortgage,” Block said.

He’s cut back on giving lessons in recent years as he’s earned more prize money in non-PGA Tour events. He is the reigning PGA of America Professional National Player of the Year.

Block is enjoying the ride this week in Rochester. “I doubt if anybody on this entire property loves golf as much as I love golf,” Block said. “I’ve learned at this point to enjoy the moment, to sit back and relax and enjoy it because it goes by fast, and life goes by fast.”

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