Former UMSL golfer Michael Block becomes feel-good story of 2023 PGA Championship

by | May 22, 2023

Block, who played for UMSL in the 1996-97 season, finished as the low club professional in the tournament and capped his weekend with a final-round ace on the par-3 15th.
Michael Block holds his follow-through after hitting a tee shot at Bellerive Country Club

Former UMSL golfer Michael Block tees off at the 18th hole during the first round of the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. Block, a club professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, California, was back competing against the best touring players in the world over the weekend at Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York, and turned in one of the top performances by a club professional, finishing in a tie for 15th place. (Photo by Steve Walentik)

Michael Block heard the roar from up near the 15th hole and saw the spectators high-fiving each other all around him Sunday afternoon, but he still didn’t believe it.

“It didn’t go in, did it?” Block asked PGA Tour star Rory McIlroy and the others around him as the CBS cameras zoomed in on his stunned face during the final round of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York. ““No. No. No way. Rory, did it go in?”

The 46-year-old Block, who played golf at the University of Missouri–St. Louis during the 1996-97 season, winning two tournaments, after transferring from Division I Mississippi State University, had already been at the center of the unlikeliest storyline of the year’s second major championship. The club professional who spends the bulk of his time giving lessons at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club, a public course in Mission Viejo, California, was suddenly contending with the world’s best touring players.

But Block then delivered the shot of the tournament when he dropped his tee shot in on the fly with a 7-iron from 151 yards out at No. 15.

That pushed Block into the top 15 on the leaderboard, and he closed out a final round of 1-over-par 71, finishing 1 over for the tournament.

It was easily his best finish in five times qualifying for the PGA Championship, including in 2018 when it was played not far from his childhood home at Bellerive Country Club. Only two club pros had ever done better in the modern era with Tommy Aycock tying for 11th in 1974 and Lonnie Nielsen matching him in 1986.

Block, named the PGA of America’s PGA Professional of the Year in 2022, won a payday of $288,333 at Oak Hill – nearly quadrupling his previous high of $75,000 won at the 2014 PGA Championship. But that was just the start of it. With his top 15 finish, he also earned automatic entry into next year’s PGA Championship, and he fielded a call after his round from Tournament Director Michael Tothe extending him a sponsor’s exemption to play in next week’s Charles Schwab Challenge held at famed Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I’m living a dream,” Block told reporters after his final round. “I’m making sure that I enjoy this moment. I’ve learned that after my 46 years of life, it’s not going to get better than this. There’s no way.”

Share
Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik

Eye on UMSL: Building blocks
Eye on UMSL: Building blocks

Members of the Spring 2024 graduating class of the University of Missouri–St. Louis play Jenga during the annual New Grad Bash on Thursday.

Eye on UMSL: Building blocks

Members of the Spring 2024 graduating class of the University of Missouri–St. Louis play Jenga during the annual New Grad Bash on Thursday.

Eye on UMSL: Building blocks

Members of the Spring 2024 graduating class of the University of Missouri–St. Louis play Jenga during the annual New Grad Bash on Thursday.