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Golf: Club pro Block emerges as surprise contender at PGA Championship


ROCHESTER, New York (Reuters) – Club professional Michael Block may not spend anywhere close to the same amount of time refining his game as the world’s top golfers but that has not stopped him from starting what could be the ultimate Cinderella story at the PGA Championship.

The 46-year-old Block, one of 20 teaching professionals in the field at Oak Hill this week and making his seventh start in a major, fired an even-par 70 on Friday that left him at level par on the week and in a good spot going into the weekend.

After making his first major cut, the head professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, California was asked what golf fans, most of whom had never heard of him before this week, should know about him.

“I’m one of them. 100%, I’m just your local club pro. That’s what I do. I don’t hit balls,” said Block.

“People think I’ve got the best job in the world. I do have a great job. I have a very supportive club that lets me go play, but the amount of times I hit a bucket of balls is not even once a week.”

Block has navigated the notoriously challenging East Course at Oak Hill better than many of the world’s top golfers so far this week and has looked anything but intimidated along the way.

Early in his second round Block reached three under on the week and was suddenly a shot off the lead but he resisted the temptation to look up at the leaderboard and savour the moment.

“I knew if I looked at that, I might get ahead of myself, and I didn’t want to do that,” said Block. “I just kept playing golf, kept my head down.”

Block’s second round was a roller-coaster that included four birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey at his 14th hole, the par-three fifth, where he shanked his tee shot, sending his ball off a tree and back into play just ahead of the member tee boxes.

But Block refused to let that hole derail his hopes this week and closed his round with a string of pars and his belief in himself fully intact.

“I feel like I’ve got the game this week to compete, to tell you the truth. I’ve made the cut, which is obviously, like I told you, a huge goal,” said Block.

“I feel like I could shoot even par out here every day. I feel like at the end of the four days that that might be a pretty good result.”

As a way to motivate himself on the course, Block has the words “WHY NOT?” imprinted on his TaylorMade golf balls. With plenty of confidence going into the weekend, Block was not shy when asked what the ultimate “why not?” would be this week.

“To win, by far,” said Block. “As weird as it sounds, I’m going to compete. I promise you that.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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