Players at KitchenAid Senior PGA Reflect on Michael Block's Magical Week
More than 40 miles and roughly an hour’s drive separate this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge, the PGA Tour event in Fort Worth, and Frisco, Texas, where Thursday the 83rd KitchenAid Senior Championship tees off. Michael Block, the Club Professional from California who stole the show at last week’s PGA Championship, is playing at Colonial this week on a sponsor’s exemption.
Forty miles north, his presence is very much here in Frisco, too. For three days of practice, Block and his performance at the PGA has been a hot topic among players.
Block, one of 20 members of the Corebridge Financial PGA Team who was competing at the PGA Championship last week, tied for 15th at Oak Hill. How loved was he by the crowd? He got a bigger ovation than Rory McIlroy on the first tee, and a bigger ovation than winner Brooks Koepka at the 18th green.
In Frisco this week, the Corebridge PGA Team comprises 36 Club Professionals. Many know Block, having played with and against him. All would love to channel some of his Oak Hill magic into this week’s senior major.
“Everyone I’ve seen here, us PGA guys, it’s all that we talk about,” said Club Professional Tracy Phillips, part of the Corebridge PGA Team at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in Frisco. “Hey, did you see that? Did you see the ace (at 15)? How do you not look at what he did and be inspired? As they play back some of those interviews, you can’t help but tear up with him.
“It was amazing.”
Phillips, 60, is the PGA Director of Instruction at Cedar Ridge Country Club in Tulsa. Last year in the KitchenAid Senior PGA at Harbor Shores in Michigan, he got a taste of the limelight, heading into the weekend only three shots off the lead. An up-and-down for par out of a parking lot playing with Ernie Els became a viral moment on social media, and eventually he would tie for 17th. For months, members, family and friends who ran into him would remind Phillips of his great accomplishment, which was warming. It was an uplifting story, as was Block’s.
Alan Morin (The Club at Ibis in Florida) has played in six PGA Championships and this week will tee it up in his third consecutive KitchenAid Senior PGA. He knows the feeling of the big stage, having lived it, and knows first-hand the difficulty of playing a PGA at Oak Hill, which he did 20 years ago, missing the cut.
Told Block said there are some months his day job prevents him from hitting more than a bucket of balls, Morin smiled. He knows. Try that, he says, and then step out onto one of the toughest exams that professionals will see all year.
“It’s like going from 0 to 100,” Morin said.
“It was pretty exciting,” Morin said of Block’s performance. “I got to know Michael and his wife, Val, when we played on the (PGA) Cup team in 2015. He’s a great guy, Val’s great, too. I was so happy for him. He played steady and he stole the show, really.”
Florida Club Professional Dave Hronek, 52, a former green grass professional who is a Certified Personal Golf Coach for GOLFTEC in Sarasota, would like to adopt a similar attitude to Block’s as he tees it up this week at Fields Ranch East in Frisco.
In 2014, when Block won the PGA Professional Championship in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Hronek was one of the players right there with him. Hronek played in the second-to-last group, right behind Block. So he and others here in Frisco this week feel inspired to have their moment, too.
“Look, at the end of the day, it’s just golf,” he said. “Go out, have fun, hit it, find it and hit it again. Add ‘em up at the end of 36 holes, and hopefully you get to Saturday and Sunday.”
“Michael’s play was great for all of us. It shows people that we can play.”
Just speaking about Block brought a huge smile to the face of Phillips, who hopes that Block continues his strong play this week in Texas.
“It’s great for the game, it’s great for the Tour, and it’s great for all of us in the PGA of America,” Phillips said. “People are going to want to take lessons with him, and enjoy the experience on a second-hand level, and let him tell some stories. Great all around.”
Seth Waugh, CEO of the PGA of America, invited Block to join PGA executives on the flight to Texas on Sunday night, and saw first-hand as the texts and phone calls poured in to Block following his Sunday performance. Someone jokingly wanted to buy the 7-iron he used for his ace for $50,000. Corporations wanted Block to wear their logo this week. Representatives lined up to try to get Block to appear on their national television shows.
"We all knew that was going to be 15 minutes (of fame), right, but we now know that it’s got real legs," Waugh said Wednesday in Frisco. "I think the story is perfect timing. That hole-in-one? It’s sort of divine intervention. You sort of go, ‘Whoa ..’
"Just when we needed it most, along comes Walter Mitty. I think it’s that and how he is handling things, which is really cool. And I think it can last, I really do, much more so than I would have thought."