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Move over Michael Block. There’s another club pro with a fairytale story to root for at this year’s PGA Championship.

The Block Party is back in Valhalla this year and the Californian club pro, who became an overnight cult hero at last year’s tournament, will be joined by 20 of his fellow PGA professionals in the field.

Those names were determined at the ever-competitive PGA Professional Championship at PGA Frisco – but there was one qualifier in particular that caught the eye.

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Tracy Phillips – an Oklahoma pro who was once considered one of the best juniors in the United States – has qualified for his first men’s major championship at the age of 61.

He shot rounds of 72-70-75-76 to finish in a tie for eighth, enough to punch his ticket to Valhalla.

“It’s exciting. I better get ready to take off a lot of head covers. I’m sure it’s going to be long and tough,” Phillips told Golf Oklahoma.

The Phillips story does not end there, though.

Incredibly, this Tulsa-based pro spent 20 years of what would have been his prime golf career without even playing the game.

Phillips’ dreams of becoming an elite professional were derailed by injuries and the yips and he became so disillusioned as a youngster that he gave up the sport completely to focus on becoming a teaching pro.

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• LIV Golf star claims tour switch has ignited major dream

“I developed the driver yips. I couldn’t keep it on the golf course,” he wrote in a poignant story for Golf Digest back in 2020. “I believed I could eventually work out my driver problems and get back to where I once was. I played some state Opens and then tried the Asian Tour for a few months. I was gone nine weeks. The travel was hard, and I lost 15 pounds that I couldn’t afford to lose, and I continued to struggle with my swing.

“When I got back home, I knew I was toast, so I went to work for my father at Cedar Ridge and eventually became a teaching pro. I worked for Hank Haney in Dallas a few years and got experience with some other great teachers. I soaked up a lot of information on how to teach the game.

“I didn’t play any golf, not for about 20 years. I told people I would rather go to the dentist than play golf. When you can’t keep a driver on the golf course, you have zero desire to play. Stopping was a relief.”

It wasn’t until 2008 that Phillips picked the clubs back up again after two decades without playing even a recreational round. He is now one of the more accomplished senior players and finished T17 at the Senior PGA Championship back in 2022.

Phillips has not seen Valhalla yet, but has confirmed he has downloaded the course on his TrackMan simulator to get some preparation in for the biggest tournament of his life.

At the age of 61, he is about to live out a childhood dream.

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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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