Parkway Central graduate Michael Block struck the opening tee shot at the 100th PGA Championship in his hometown on Thursday.
Club pro Block got the final major of the year underway at 6.50 a.m. at Bellerive Country Club, two miles from where he grew up.
It was a special moment for the 42-year-old Block.
“I’ll tell you what, it hasn’t even sunk in yet, what just occurred,” Block said after his round. “Still in the clouds for the moment. This is something I’ll cherish the rest of my life without a doubt. I can’t believe it’s even real for PGA members such as myself that grew up a mile from this course, came to the 1992 PGA as one of the patrons, a 15-year-old kid, just in awe of these guys. To be that guy on the other side now is pretty surreal.
“Not to mention running into a lot of my high school friends and college teammates when I’m out there. It’s pretty surreal since I haven’t seen anyone in over 20 years.”
He admitted he had plenty of emotions on that first tee box.
“You know what, it felt great. I love all the fan support, everyone here in St. Louis,” Block said. “It’s such a sports-friendly town, and everyone really supports all of their sports, the Cardinals and everyone else, the Blues. For them to all come out here and actually — it seems like so many of them actually recognize me due to the great recognition from these — the local newspapers and TV stations. It’s been fantastic.”
Block has the words “Why not” imprinted on his TaylorMade golf balls.
The former University of Missouri-St. Louis player started off well. He began with a par.
He struggled afterward.
Block ended shooting an opening round 75 to stand tied for 134th in the 156-player field.
“You know, honestly, to tell you the truth, I just kind of lost my swing with my irons,” Block said. “I kind of piped it right down the middle on the 1st hole with my driver. But I got to be honest with you, I was playing on 3 wood all week long. I’ve only been hitting 3 woods there, and I told my caddie before I got up there, I don’t know if I can even make contact with my 3 wood right now.
“I want the biggest head possible. So I went with my driver and pumped it down the middle, which felt really good. My irons just killed me today. Just kind of coming underneath and flipping it, and it caused me some bogeys I didn’t need.”
Block is the head professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, Calif., a public course.
He attended the PGA Championship at Bellerive in 1992 and had Payne Stewart and winner Nick Price sign his program. He had fond memories of that tournament.
“I do remember it,” Block said. “I remember where I was stationed. I remember I was on hole 13 just getting autographs. I remember getting Payne Stewart and Nick Price, my two favorite guys. I still have it on a ticket that I brought that day.”
Twenty years later, the PGA of America announced that Bellerive would host the PGA Championship and Block earned a spot to play in it.
Earlier this summer, Block qualified to play in the U.S. Open, where he missed the cut.
This PGA is the fifth major championship in which Block has played. It is his third PGA to go along with two U.S. Opens.
He enjoys being the life of being a club golf professional.
“I love the combination, seeing myself as a three-pronged professional,” Block said. “I teach, run golf operations and play, and I have a job for a lifetime. If I would have been a tour pro I’d be done at 40. I feel like I’ve set myself up nicely.
“I’ve played in enough of these events and played with world-class professionals. I have zero looks back at what I’ve done in the past, Everything happens for a reason. I still get to go live the dream. Over the last five years, I’ve been able to play two to seven events a year on the PGA Tour. It’s a pretty cool thing to do. I’m blessed.”
Block tees off on No. 10 on Friday at 12:15 p.m.