Most fans don’t watch Patrick Mahomes eluding a ferocious rush and think, “Now here’s how I would handle that,” or see Nikola Jokić thundering toward the rim and think, “I could totally defend that.” What elite-level athletes do on the field or the court is so far above our abilities it might as well be sorcery.
Golf lovers are a different breed of fan. They’ll watch Jordan Spieth flare a drive into the gallery or Justin Thomas skull a chip all the way across a green or Rory McIlroy leave a putt woefully short, and they think, I could do better than that. Go to any golf tournament, and you’ll see plenty of amateurs describing — often in loud, sometimes beer-fueled terms — exactly how they’d play this hole, sometimes within earshot of the actual people playing it.
These people — all golf fans, really — now have their hero: Michael Block, the teaching pro who got to play a round with Rory McIlroy, ace a hole in a major, and finish in the Top 15 at Oak Hill … and that was just on Sunday. Brooks Koepka may have won the Wanamaker Trophy, but Michael Block won the week.
“This week's been absolutely a dream,” Block said in a news conference after the tournament. “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.”
Golf is built on a foundation of fairy tales that play out exactly like Block’s life just did. The promise of golf is an alluring one: tweak your swing the tiniest bit, use a better club or a better ball, sneak in just one more round, and you too could hang with the pros. Nobody’s selling the fantasy that you could take a hit from Aaron Donald — mainly because such a fantasy would involve a long hospital stay — but all of golf feeds the belief that your next shot is the one that might just bring you everlasting glory.
Because, hey, you never know, that shot might just go like this:
MICHAEL BLOCK DRILLS THE ACE 🎯
Nothing but the bottom of the cup on the 15th! pic.twitter.com/63vogSPoXg
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) May 21, 2023
That right there deserves to be one of the most famous shots in golf history. It’s everything golf can be, everything golf ought to be: skill, brilliance, exuberance, humility. We should all be so lucky to do something in our life to get an entire gallery to explode in joy like that.
“The one thing in the world that makes me cry is golf,” Block said. “Obviously, I love my family and everything else and my job and everything, but golf is my life. I live it, breathe it.”
Granted, Block isn’t some lucky weekend-hacker doofus who happened to stumble into glory. He’s played in five majors and two U.S. Opens. He had to grind his way through a long, multi-round, zero-margin-for-error qualifying process to even make his way into the PGA Championship. In terms of pure skill, he’s a whole lot closer to Koepka than a Top Golf hero.
But in terms of everything else, he’s us. With his thickish frame and weekend stubble, he’s a long way from Koepka. His shirts and slacks are off-the-rack models, not wild Met Gala-on-the-fairway creations like Viktor Hovland sports.
“I'm just a club professional, right? I work. I have fun. I have a couple boys that I love to play golf with,” he said. “I have a great wife. I have great friends. I live the normal life. I love being at home. I love sitting in my backyard. My best friend in the world is my dog.”
He’s a regular dude with a $288,000 check in his pocket, an invitation to play in a PGA Tour event this week, and a guaranteed spot in next year’s PGA Championship. Golf’s a cruel sport, but every so often, it rewards those who love it and remain true to themselves.
“I'm not trying to do anything,” Block said. “I'm not trying to be anybody outside of myself. Hopefully people gravitate toward it and appreciate it and be themselves and succeed in their goals as I have this week.”
Block just enjoyed his dream week. For the rest of us, it’s still waiting out there. But, hey — at least we now know it’s possible.