Michael Block awoke in the rental house near Oak Hill Country Club on Monday and sobbed. These were tears of joy, as he reflected on four days that, at 46 years old, have changed his life.
The effects of his tie for 15th, highlighted by a slam dunk hole-in-one in the company of Rory McIlroy on Sunday, have been immediate and not just because he picked up approximately £250,000, more than triple his previous biggest payday.
He was supposed to be back at the Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Saddleback Valley, California on Tuesday to give $150 lessons to members as the head club professional.
“I’m sure they’ll understand that we’ll have to reschedule,” Block said. Instead, he was flying to Fort Worth, Texas to compete alongside the great and the good once more. An hour or so after he and McIlroy hugged on the 18th green, Block received an invitation from the PGA Tour to play in the $9 million Charles Schwab Challenge, the famous event at Colonial that starts on Thursday.
The sponsors know a crowd-puller and a social-media sensation when they see one and the Canadian Open in two weeks’ time, which McIlroy will be defending, have also sent an invitation. The national television networks have also come calling.
Block was on CNN’s morning show on Monday and the late night talk shows have been asking for him to appear. For a veteran of the South California PGA circuit without a manager – “although I do have a pro shop assistant” – this is understandably overwhelming.
“My wife hadn’t seen me cry outside of one other time in my life until this week and I literally woke up on my bed crying this morning,” he said. “It was pretty crazy.”
Block is a natural performer and knows how to play the interviewers. He understands his new role as the American dream, as the sporting Cinderella, as Rocky in slacks. In the CNN report he referred to his ace on the 15th – the only one of the week at Oak Hill – as “my Tin Cup moment”. That, of course, was the film featuring Kevin Costner as the struggling club pro who won the nation’s heart with his heroic display at a US Open.
Block’s own story is Hollywood material and because of that fans will be delighted to learn that the Netflix cameras charted his fairy tale for the second series of Full Swing. They will follow him to Colonial and then to Toronto and the wise money is already on the tournament organisers reprising that delicious pairing with McIlroy.
It will be interesting to see which brands he is advertising by then, because he is hot property. A few top 10s in the next month and he could earn himself a PGA Tour card, although he is so far sticking to the humble script on that score.
“No, I don’t want to play any tours,” Block said. “I just want to come out and compete when I’m around and then go back to my club and hang out with my family.”
Block’s timing is perfect. Not merely in the way he hits those baby fades, but by storming the sport’s consciousness right when it suffers from its existential crisis. In all the rancour and recrimination caused by the formation of LIV Golf – with the Saudi-funded circuit set to celebrate Brooks Koepka’s historic win at its $25 million tournament in Washington DC this week – Block is the feelgood story the game requires.
He exemplifies the joy that golf can bring, how its unique nature can see cult heroes play alongside superstars – and beat them. Block is an everyman of the fairway, a representative of all those quality players around the world who know they could grace the big stage, if only they had their shot.
“I’m kind of built for this, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I guess I proved it with a 15th place in a major that – I mean, that makes me choke up even thinking. I didn’t think about it yet, but I got 15th place in a major championship.”
His outrageous up and down on the last meant that he has a berth in next year’s US PGA in Kentucky and by then he could be verging on a household name. The truth might be that he has more in common with Rory McIlroy than Roy McAvoy –the pro in Tin Cup – because he has already appeared in 27 PGA Tour events and regularly plays practice rounds at home with world No 4 Patrick Cantlay.
Yet he and America will not allow any facts to spoil the fantasy. These were definitely not the tears of a clown.
“If it makes any sense, the one thing in the world that makes me cry is golf,’ Block said. “If that puts into context as far as how much I love the game, you know now. It’s everything to me. Obviously I love my family and everything else and my job and everything, but golf is my life. I live it, breathe it.”
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