Honored as PGA Professional Player of Year
By RANDY YOUNGMAN
During the height of the pandemic, Michael Block was so depressed about the state of his game that he wondered whether it was time to end his record-setting SCPGA playing career and concentrate on his job as head professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo.
He wasn’t playing very well, and he wasn’t having much fun, so he wondered if he instead should start giving more lessons to players half his age, kids who were out-driving him, anyway.
Block, now 46, says his wife, Val, also asked if he should retire from competitive golf while he was on top—after a decade of dominance and brilliance as the unquestioned best player among the hundreds of club professionals in Southern California.
He concedes he had serious doubts, too.
“Am I really done?” Block remembers thinking to himself.
Fast-forward to 2022. The same Michael Block found out just before Christmas that he had won the PGA of America’s national PGA Professional Player of the Year honor, to go along with his record ninth Southern California PGA Player of the Year award and his fifth in a row, another record.
Done? So much for that silly notion.
Block answered his own question with a career year, culminating with reaching the pinnacle of his profession as the top player among thousands of certified PGA of America club pros across the country. He was only the second national PGA Professional POY from the Southern California Section since the award was established in 1984, joining 1999 winner Robin Freeman.
“It was an unbelievable year,” said Block, who finished the 2022 season with 1,007.5 points in the national season-long points race, well ahead of runner-up Jesse Mueller of the Southwest Section (825 points).
Technically, that means Block ranked No. 1 out of 29,000 club professionals in 14 regional districts and 41 geographical sections of the PGA of America.
“It’s such a great honor … especially when you think there are 29,000 pros around the country,” said Block, who was scheduled to receive the official PGA Professional POY trophy and a Rolex watch from the PGA of America during a ceremony and celebration at Arroyo Trabuco in early 2023.
To achieve his latest and most prestigious POY distinction, this is what Block did in 2022, as pandemic restrictions eased, his game returned to form, and his self-doubt vanished:
â He won the Southern California PGA Section Championship for the third time, earning a berth in the PGA Tour’s 2023 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. (He missed the cut by three shots in January, but finished ahead of the two tour pros in his threesome and beat dozens of tour pros with a 1-over 73 on the challenging South Course during 30-mph winds in the second round.)
â By winning his ninth SCPGA Player of the Year title, based on a points system from competitions during the calendar year, he broke a tie with Chris Starkjohann for the most career POY titles in the history of the SCPGA. It also earned him a berth in the PGA Tour’s 2023 American Express Championship in La Quinta. (He was on the leaderboard the first two days, thanks to 7-under 65 in the opening round on the Nicklaus Tournament Course, but missed the 54-hole cut of 10-under by three shots.)
â He extended to 11 years his impressive streak of qualifying for at least one PGA Tour event. All told, he has qualified for 24 PGA Tour events, including two U.S. Opens and four PGA Championships, including the 2023 PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
â He finished second in the 312-player PGA Professional Championship at Barton Creek in Austin, Texas, helping him earn a spot on the prestigious 10-man U.S. team for the PGA Cup in September, a biennial PGA of America-organized competition patterned after the Ryder Cup in which a team of U.S. club professionals plays against a team of club pros from Great Britain and Ireland.
Block went 4-1-0 to lead the U.S. to a 15½-10½ victory at Foxhills Resort & Club in suburban London, the highlight of which was rallying from 4 down with 6 holes to play on the strength of five birdies to win the opening singles match for the U.S.
“One of my goals was to play for the U.S. team in Europe, and it was such a great experience,” Block said. “Our team was amazing.”
â After his singles match in London, Block rushed to Heathrow Airport so he could make the Southern California Section Championship that began the next day at El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel. After overcoming understandable jet lag in the opening round, Block won the 54-hole event by five strokes.
â Not to leave anything to chance, Block went to Port St. Lucie, Fl., in December for the PGA Tournament Series and won another event to pick up valuable points in the POY race.
“I probably didn’t need to go to Florida, but I didn’t want to risk it and have somebody jump me (in the standings),” he said.
In 2022, the year the best club golf professional in Southern California also became the best in the nation, Block also shot a career-low 58 in a member-guest event at Coto de Caza Golf & Racquet Club in Orange County.
“It was an amazing year, and winning the national Player of the Year was one of my goals for a long time,” Block said. “My bosses at Arroyo Trabuco—Matt Donovan and Geoff Cram—have been so supportive. And I’m very blessed to have a club that supports me and a wife and family that supports me, when I have to travel as much as I do.”
What’s next for the reigning national PGA Professional Player of the Year?
“I know I’m 46, but I think overall this was the best year of my career.” Block said. “And I really feel my best golf may be yet to come.”
Is there anything he hasn’t done?
“The only other goal I haven’t achieved is to make a cut in a major,” Block said. “And now I have the confidence I can hang with these (tour pros).”
You don’t have to tell Michael Block that the 2023 U.S. Open will be contested on the North Course at LA Country Club in June.