Biggest golf moments of 2023: The Michael Block Party takes over the PGA Championship

Michael Block holds a trophy at the 2023 PGA Championship.

Michael Block won over the hearts of many at the PGA Championship. He lost them just as fast.

David Cannon/Getty Images

Ah, 2023. The year everything changed … again. For the second straight year, we left 2023 with a drastically different perspective of professional golf than we entered. Now, as we look back at the year that was — with LIV major championships, Ryder Cup controversies and oh so many other stories — we’re remembering the 15 biggest moments that defined the year in golf. Let’s get digging.

ICYMI: Biggest Golf Moments of 2023 No. 15: Viktor Hovland’s arrival
ICYMI: Biggest Golf Moments of 2023 No. 14: Fowler, Day back in the winner’s circle

ICYMI: Biggest Golf Moments of 2023 No. 13: Brian Harman’s Open rout


Biggest golf moments of 2023 No. 12: The Michael Block Party takes over the PGA Championship

There may be no bigger flex in recent golf history than the scene on the 15th hole on Sunday at the PGA Championship.

It was here that Michael Block ascended from plucky underdog story to certified piece of golf lore, hitting his tee shot, losing sight of the ball, hearing the crowd around the green explode, then turning to his playing partner — a four-time major winner and No. 3 player in the world — and asking him a simple question.

“It didn’t go in, did it?

“No … No … No … No way?

“Rory, did it go in?

That magical dunk on the 15th hole on a Sunday at Oak Hill Country Club cemented the “fairytale story” — as Jim Nantz put it — of Michael Block’s week at the 2023 PGA Championship. However, his legend would only grow from there … for better or for worse.

During that week in Rochester, Block, a 46-year-old California club professional with a fairly successful competitive career to that point, became an overnight cult hero.

The story of the Michael Block Party at the PGA Championship begins during the first round at Oak Hill. Block, as one of the 20 PGA members in the field that week, was chosen to do a walk-and-talk segment during ESPN’s coverage. The mic’d up walk-and-talk was one of the best things to happen to pro golf in 2023, pioneered by CBS, who broadcasted the later rounds of the tournament.

Block was three over for his opening round at one point, but birdied the two holes before slipping on an AirPod to chat with host Scott Van Pelt and crew. For 10 minutes, he won over the fans with an endearing display of his folksy charm, offering his philosophy on teaching the game back home at Mission Viejo’s Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club.

He ended up with a 70 that day and followed it with another Friday, despite a disastrous shank on the fifth hole. By then he was firmly in the mix for the Wannamaker Trophy and beating several big-name pros. He was the only club pro to make the cut at this year’s PGA and he was beating the No. 1 player in the World, Jon Rahm, by six shots while doing it.

That last part hit him hard.

“I wish you guys could come to my office and hang out with me and come teach with me on the back of the driving range with my students who are out there right now,” he said, beginning to fight back tears. “Sorry. I don’t know why that makes me emotional, but it does.

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“Sorry, Jon.”

By Saturday, the Block Party was at full strength. His TaylorMade hats sold out. More people flocked to see him than third-round partner Justin Rose. He shot another 70 to move up the leaderboard, into a pairing with Rory McIlroy on Sunday … of a major.

The fans not only took to him as a classic underdog story, but also because of his attitude and showmanship both on the golf course and in the media room afterward. He told media members not to make him cry again after Friday’s waterworks. That didn’t stop GOLF’s Nick Piastowski from playing him a message from home.

“The same guys that have been there for 19 years. They were supporting me — same crowd, same place, same everything — when I won the 2014 national club professional championship. It’s amazing. I’ve been there for almost 19 years. These are great friends and people and great members and the support system there at O’Neill’s and at Arroyo is second to none. I’m very lucky to have it. 

“And it makes the hole look bigger when I come to these things and it’s because of them.”

On Sunday, well, you know what happened. He jarred it on 15. Then on the 18th, he needed a par to finish 15th, earning an invite back to next year’s tournament without having to qualify. With McIlroy and what seemed to be the entire city of Rochester watching, he left himself in jail on 18.

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But somehow, some way, Block made a miraculous up-and-down into a tucked pin position on the 18th to save par, clinching his return to Valhalla in 2024.

It was a magical ending to a magical week.

But that wasn’t the end of Blockie’s story. Far from it.

Soon after the PGA, tournament invites, podcast requests and sponsorships flooded in. The Charles Schwab Challenge, the PGA Tour’s event the following week, offered him a spot in the field. So did the Canadian Open a few weeks later. He was even offered $50k for the 7-iron he used for the hole-in-one.

But Block’s 15 minutes of fame started to unravel with an appearance on Bob Menery’s podcast, when the club pro was asked about what separated his game from that of Sunday playing partner Rory McIlroy.

“Oh my God, what I would shoot from where Rory hits it would be stupid,” Block told Menery. “I think I’d be one of the best players in the world. Hands down. If I had that stupid length? All day. My iron game, wedge game, around the greens and my putting is world-class.”

Block’s stretch went viral, and suddenly the cult hero was a punchline.

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We’ll end this recanting of Michael Block’s story with a look ahead to next year. Why? Because in August, just three months after his magic in Rochester, Block showed up at Valhalla and shot 63 to tie the course record.

Whether you think that’s a sign of things to come or an aberration at the end of a tired joke is up to you. What is almost certain is, love or hate him, that there will be plenty more of Michael Block in 2024 … especially in Season 2 of Full Swing.

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at