Unlike his teammates Michael Kim, Joel Stalter and Brandon Hagy, Michael Weaver has not been ranked No. 1 among NCAA golfers at any point this season. But all three members of the No. 1-ranked Cal men’s golf team would surely trade that honor for a chance to stand in his spikes this week.
Weaver will receive the opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIIroy on Thursday when he becomes the first active Cal golfer to tee off at the Masters. The redshirt junior, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday at Augusta on Friday, earned the invitation by finishing as the runner-up at the 2012 U.S. Amateur in August.
“It does seem kind of hard to believe that I’ll be out there with all those guys you see on TV,” Weaver said.
His goal this week is to make the cut, which doesn’t seem unrealistic considering that his game sets up well for the course. He’s a big driver, he’s accurate and he’s an aggressive putter. In the handful of times that he’s played course, he said he’s shot in the low 70s.
“The course is pretty generous off the tee and the greens are large,” Cal golf coach Steve Desimone said. “Michael will hit a lot of greens.”
Throughout his young career, Weaver has demonstrated that he is a big-tournament player, winning the Northern California Golf Association Junior championship in 2009, the Palo Alto City Championships in 2011 (while breaking the course record) and, of course, he qualified for the Masters at the U.S. Amateur last summer.
But how will he respond under the bright lights of golf’s biggest stage?
“I’ll definitely have butterflies,” Weaver said. “But just having the right mindset is really important. Not putting too much pressure on myself, just going out and playing.”
Weaver might not have qualified for the Masters had he not redshirted last year to focus on school, which allowed him to earn admission into Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. While he was away from the team, Weaver fine-tuned his chipping, pitching and bunker play.
“That’s one of the reasons he’s become the player he is now,” Desimone said.
Weaver returned to competitive action in the summer and armed with a revamped short game, he qualified for the first major of the season.
But as exciting as the Masters will be, Weaver is just as amped to win an NCAA championship at Cal this year. The Bears have won eight of 10 tournaments this season and they’re only two victories shy of tying the NCAA record.
“Golf is an individual game,” Weaver said. “You really don’t get a lot of opportunities to achieve something like that as part of a team.”