Robin Barwick on Michael Block, who won the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship to qualify for the USPGA Championship

Words: Robin Barwick

Part of the appeal of the PGA Championship is that 20 club professionals qualify for the tournament each year, via the PGA Professional National Championship. Foremost of the club pros at Valhalla this week is Michael Block, the head professional from Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, California, and champion of the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship.

Block, 38, won the National Championship at The Dunes Golf Club at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in June, to lead a massive field of 312 pros, who had each advanced from a series of 41 PGA Section championships. It is a long journey for the club pros teeing up this week at Valhalla. Block won the title after he birdied the first play-off hole against Jamie Broce, who is coach at the University of Toledo, and also playing this week.

“It’s a dream to be here,” starts Block, who also qualified for the 2007 US Open at Oakmont, where he missed the cut, although he has played the weekends at occasional PGA Tour events over the past two years. “I’m just like everyone else out there on the other side of the ropes this week, for sure, and I see myself in them and I’ve been there watching from outside the ropes myself.

“I had my ticket signed by Payne Stewart at the 1992 PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club, where I’m from [St. Louis], so every time I sign someone’s ticket here this week my mind goes straight back to when I was 10 years old doing the exact same thing.”

Block has set himself the bold target to contend this week at Valhalla, and why not? When he has made the cut on tour in the past, Block has reached his goal and then slumped in the third round, so better to think big this time. To get in the mix this week he will have to keep up with the likes of world number one Rory McIlroy, whose bunker practice left a particular impression on Block.

“I was watching Rory hit the most unbelievable bunker shots,” he says. “That guy is on fire, and I know I don’t get the spin out of the bunkers that he does. Rory really opens up the clubface and accelerates through the ball more than I would, because I would be afraid of thinning the ball and hitting the spectators on the other side of the short game area! But he’s not afraid of that, I guess.”

Block tees off at 7:55am tomorrow in the first round, with Senior PGA champion Colin Montgomerie and 2003 PGA Championship winner Shaun Micheel.

Robin Barwick travelled to the PGA Championship courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz is the official car of the PGA Championship