Underdog pro gets emotional when asked about beating world’s best player at PGA Championship
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — At first, Michael Block seemed to shrug off the question, but then you could see it hit him.
You mentioned Jon Rahm earlier. I just want to get your reaction. You’re beating him by six shots …
Block, the head golf professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club, in Mission Viejo, Calif., had just played the two rounds of his life. He opened the 105th PGA Championship with back-to-back rounds of even-par 70 to all but assure he’ll be one of, if not the only, PGA pro to make the cut this week. Heck, if he keeps it up, he might find himself in a Sunday afternoon pairing.
Block even briefly climbed to within a shot of the lead during his second round. Not even a disastrous shank and subsequent double bogey could sink him as he steadied him himself, nearly birdieing the brutal 6th and parring in the rest of his second nine.
Meanwhile, Rahm, the Masters winner, had yet to start his second round Friday after opening with a shocking six-over 76.
Toward the end of his post-second-round press conference, Block was asked how it felt to be beating golf’s alpha dog.
At first, Block’s expression didn’t change.
“Hmm,” he said, shrugging. “Pretty, pretty cool, to say the least.”
He paused for another couple of beats.
“I wish you guys could come to my office and hang out with me and come teach with me on the back of the driving range with my students who are out there right now,” he said, beginning to fight back tears. “Sorry. I don’t know why that makes me emotional, but it does.
This is why fans love the underdog in sports.
The odds have always been against Block this week. This is the sixth time he’s played in the PGA Championship and 25th PGA Tour start overall. From those more than two-dozen appearances, this will be just his fifth made-cut and first at the PGA Championship.
That’s not to say he’s not an accomplished player. The 46-year-old was the 2022 PGA Professional Player of the Year and is a 10-time Southern California PGA Player of the Year.
But a PGA professional hasn’t finished in the top 30 at the PGA Championship this century. A club pro hasn’t won a major since 1948, though ironically that winner has ties to Oak Hill. E. Claude Harmon won the 1948 Masters as a club professional and he is the father of longtime Oak Hill head pro Craig Harmon — and Butch, the famed instructor. Claude’s green jacket is even framed in the Oak Hill clubhouse, on loan from Augusta National.
Seventy-five years later, Block is trying to do the same thing by winning the PGA. He doesn’t doubt his chances.
“I don’t know who I beat, who I didn’t beat,” he said, regaining his composure. “I’m going to go out there and do my best and put my head down and play as well as I can for the next two days.”
He’s playing the weekend with a “why-not-me” attitude.
“As weird as it sounds, I’m going to compete. I promise you that.”