No shortage of optimism for top club pro Block
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Just as easily as anyone else, Michael Block could look at the stats that demonstrate what he’s up against this week at the 96th PGA Championship.
No club professional made the 36-hole cut in either of the last two years, and since 1995, only three have managed to play 72 holes and finish inside the top 50. But Block refuses to be dismayed.
“I honestly believe I can contend,” he said Tuesday at Valhalla Golf Club. “That’s how I approach everything. If I don’t, it’s not a good way to go about it. Definitely, I come here to win. I know a lot of people would laugh at that, but that’s how I think.”
Block was a come-from-behind winner at the 47th PGA Professional National Championship in late June in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He trailed Jamie Broce, the head coach of the men’s golf team at the University of Toledo, by four strokes with 10 to play, but caught Broce at the 72nd hole, then won with a birdie at the second playoff hole.
The top 20 finishers from the PGA PNC earned berths in the PGA Championship, and what Block brings with him is a boatload of confidence. For starters, he has played in a major championship before (the 2007 U.S. Open) and has played with a major-championship winner (Bubba Watson at this year’s Farmers Insurance Open).
“My first Tour event was the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, which was a wake-up call,” he said. “I was happy to break 80 those two rounds. I literally went into that tournament wanting to break 80; that was my mentality at that point in my life.
“Since then, I’ve become a Class A (PGA) member, been lucky enough to play in the Farmers Insurance and the Northern Trust the last two years. I’ve been paired with great guys and had a great time. My goal going into both those events was to make the cut; so when I made the cut, I got to Saturday and I was goal-less. I’m definitely a goal-oriented human being, and I definitely strive to exceed my goals.
PHOTOS: Valhalla hole-by-hole, 2014 PGA Championship
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Valhalla Golf Club, par 71 and 7,458 yards, earns a whopping 77.6 rating and a slope of 152 from the club's back tees -- and if this week's PGA Championship tees were measured, both the rating and slope would be higher. See all 18 holes here!
"Now, to be honest, I have a whole new list of goals, and it goes way beyond making the cut.”
Block’s PGA Championship experience received additional luster when starting times were announced over the weekend. He was paired with a former PGA Championship winner, Shaun Micheel, and one of the best players of the past 20 years, Colin Montgomerie. Additionally, there are standout players all around him; Angel Cabrera is in the group in front of Block, and Rickie Fowler and Ernie Els are right behind him.
“Colin has been a big part of my life, though he doesn’t know that,” Block said. “I grew up watching the Golf Channel every morning, 5 o’clock. Right before I’d go to work, I would watch the European Tour; Colin was always just dominating. I have watched Colin play hundreds of rounds of golf on TV, and now to be teeing (it) up with Colin is pretty surreal, to say the least.”
Had a spot in the PGA Championship not materialized from the week at the Professional National Championship, Block would be filling his normal sunrise-to-sunset routine as head professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif.: on the course at 8, teach for two hours, spend a few hours in the golf shop, return emails and phone calls, and otherwise ensure there are no fires to put out. Then return to the range and give more lessons until there’s no more daylight.
“I do that five days a week,” he said. “On my days off, my favorite thing in the world to do is to then head to the golf course with my children, my 7- and 9-year-old, and play nine holes in the morning, before the members get there. &$8230; I go to work at a golf course. I come home, I have dinner and I watch golf. I’ve been doing that, I swear, for 30 years.”
With his victory at the PGA PNC, Block gets a spot in six PGA Tour events. He also has the chance to qualify for three others as a member of the Southern California PGA Section, so there’s a chance, slight as it might be, that all of the pieces fall right and this idea of life as a touring professional lasts longer than simply this week in Louisville.
“I’m purposely going to try to get as many as I can in the beginning of the year,” he said, “just in case I do finish high and I could possibly retain my card; I would do that.
“Outside of that, I’d have a tough time leaving what I have and what I do. … I’m not going to leave my job and the opportunities I have and the people I work with, unless I have my card.”
Undoubtedly, there are few people who think Block has much of a chance to attain that. But he certainly does.