The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Michael Block ties for 15th at PGA Championsh­ip

- By John Wawrow

PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Michael Block recalled how only a week ago he was having drinks at the Pittsford Pub — a few par-5s away from where the PGA Championsh­ip was being held at Oak Hill in suburban Rochester, New York — and no one knew who he was.

On Sunday, the once littleknow­n golf pro from California is heading back to the bar for a few — maybe more — celebrator­y drinks with his friends and family knowing his days of living in anonymity might be over for the near future.

Finishing in the top 15 at a major and making an ace during the final round with the entire sport watching will do that.

“We’re going to have a crazy good time tonight, and I look forward to it,” Block said with a beaming smile on Sunday after he lived out every hacker’s dream.

Over a four-day stretch at the brutish East Course, Block held

his own against the best in the world, became a gallery favorite, conducted national television interviews between shots, made a hole-in-one, and posted a 1-over 281 to finish in a tie for 15th, which qualifies him to compete in the major next year. In doing so, he’s earned a payday of close to $290,000, which is far more than the $75,000 check he received for winning the 2014 Club

Profession­al National Championsh­ip at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

“My life’s changed. But my life’s only changed for the better,” the 46-year-old said. “I’ve got my family. I’ve got my friends. I’ve got the people that really love me and care about me here. It’s been an epic experience.”

Oh, and to all those back at the Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club gearing up to party with him soon, you’ll have to wait. Shortly after walking off the 18th green following the trophy presentati­on he shared with tournament champion Brooks Koepka, Block received a phone call informing him he’s been invited to compete at the Colonial next week.

“I’m in next week as the last sponsor’s exemption, which is really even more mind-boggling now,” Block said. “This week’s been absolutely a dream. I didn’t know it was going to happen, but I knew if I just played my darned game, right, that I could do this. I always knew it.”

Though in Block’s dreams he envisioned playing in the final group with Tiger Woods, he was more than happy to do so over a weekend in which he spent Saturday paired with Justin Rose and Sunday with Rory McIlroy.

What Block never could have imagined is having McIlroy, a four-time major champion, deliver the news of Block’s ace on the 151-yard, par-3 15th.

“So I hit it, and it’s just right at it, but I can’t see it, just like now, and all a sudden (the ball) disappears,” he said, comparing the bright lights in the interview room to the glare of the sun.

“Rory is walking down the pathway 20 yards away from me and turns around and starts walking back towards me with his arms open to give me a hug. And he goes, ‘You made it,’” he said. “I go, ‘What? Seriously?’ He had to tell me five times that I made it.”

Block’s finish was the best for a club pro at the PGA Championsh­ip since Lonnie Nielsen finished in a tie for 11th in 1986 at Inverness Club. Not bad for a player who had never made the cut in six previous tries at a major.

“It’s incredible. I literally have no words. All day I’m going ‘Wow. Wow. Wow.’ I’m losing my voice and my hands hurt from clapping so hard,” Val Block said of her husband’s remarkable week. “He has worked for so long for something like this and he just deserves this . ... I’m extremely proud of him. I’m so excited. We’re dreaming. We’re just dreaming.”

 ?? Eric Gay/Associated Press ?? Michael Block poses with the crystal bowl he won for being the low club profession­al at the PGA Championsh­ip at Oak Hill Country Club on Sunday in Pittsford, N.Y.
Eric Gay/Associated Press Michael Block poses with the crystal bowl he won for being the low club profession­al at the PGA Championsh­ip at Oak Hill Country Club on Sunday in Pittsford, N.Y.

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