Cherry Hills Village, Colo. – In this age of instant gratification and being much too much in a hurry, Michael Weaver is a first-rate argument for taking your time, figuring out who you want to be and how you want to go about being it.
Weaver did just about everything right to win the 112th U.S. Amateur Sunday at Cherry Hills Country Club, right up until the championship-clinching putt on the 36th green peeked at destiny, changed its mind, spit in the eye of gravity and horseshoed its way not just out of the hole but into infamy.
The echoes from a cheering crowd were already rattling through the Rocky Mountains when Weaver’s fateful 5-foot par putt made its defiant U-turn and unfriended its owner. Bill Weaver, father and caddie, was raising his arms in triumph while his son was winding up for an elation-filled fist-pump.
It was not to be.
Instead, a stunned and devastated Weaver lost on the first extra hole, the 37th of the day. A determined and resourceful Steven Fox, who had been 2 down with two holes remaining, took full advantage of the reprieve and sank a curling 18-foot birdie putt to claim the title.
The day before, Weaver had let loose tears of joy for fighting through to the U.S. Amateur final, a path that included beating five players in the top 50 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR). This time, his abject disappointment brought forth a bitter brand of sobbing.
Not disappointed. Just sad, said the 21-year-old from Fresno, Calif., trying to compose himself after he saw his late 2-up lead evaporate. I played well. I thought I made my putt on 18. I kind of looked away. I thought it went in, and it didn’t.
You know, that’s golf. But just to see it slip through my fingers, it [hurts]. And I know I had a great week and all that. But I’m not really thinking about that now.
It would be difficult for anyone to have his thoughts in order after such a shocking turn of events, even for someone like Weaver who knows his way around the inside of his own head. And let’s face it, not everyone can make that claim by the time they turn 21.
A junior at the University of California-Berkeley, Weaver redshirted during the 2011-2012 season because he wanted to gain admission into the prestigious Haas School of Business after changing his major from interdisciplinary studies. That was quite a decision. As a sophomore, he had finished tied for eighth at the 2011 NCAA Division I Championships and earned Ping All-America honors.
The year off gave him a chance to concentrate on academics while also giving him an opportunity to effect changes to his game, particularly his wedge play and chipping.
His consistency is what’s most impressive, said Pace Johnson, Weaver’s roommate at Cal and a former high school teammate at Clovis West. I’ve seen his wedge game really improve, and that is so important on a course like this. And he’s always been a real solid putter. He has great vision on the greens. He is determined and focused. Those are two of his best traits. He’s always been so focused on both school and golf at the same time. He does a great job managing himself and his time.
Added Weaver: I’m still planning on turning professional after I graduate in two years. The change of majors didn’t change my plans as far as that. I do want to attempt to play professionally, and, hopefully, make it. But I also wanted to pursue a degree that I was interested in and something I thought would be useful should things not work out with golf.
They didn’t work out for him Sunday, but in the full balance of the championship he can take away a more positive view than the fact that he lost the last three holes of the final after leading since the sixth hole of the morning 18.
The week was absolutely outstanding, Bill Weaver said. When you look at it from the front of the week, you’re happy to make it into the cut, or in this case get into a playoff for match play. Then to make it through the playoff into the match play. Then you’re happy to win your first match and so on. At the front end if you’d ask us if we’d be satisfied to make it into the final, absolutely. But then you get there and you get to the last hole and lose it on a short horseshoe putt, it’s very disappointing. It’s hard to put into words, but I guess if you look at the whole picture, it is quite an accomplishment what he’s done.
I am so proud of him, the elder Weaver continued. He is one special kid; a fantastic golfer but even a more special person [who has] incredible strength. I know it’s very hard for him right now, but he will get over the disappointment and come back even stronger.
In just two short weeks, Weaver will be asked to gather himself for the first tournament of the fall collegiate golf season. But off in the distance he’ll not only get a chance to excel for Cal, but he’ll also have the opportunity to compete against the best players in the world. Weaver is automatically exempt into the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club. In addition, the U.S. Amateur runner-up traditionally receives an invitation to the Masters Tournament.
Obviously, if you would have told me at the beginning of the week that I was runner-up, I would be pretty happy, Weaver conceded. You know, it gives me a lot of confidence, especially since I beat some pretty good players – [2011 USA Walker Cup member] Patrick Rodgers and [2011-12 college player of the year] Justin Thomas … not to say that the other guys weren’t good but they’re two of the top [amateurs] in the world. To knock both of those guys off … really gives me a lot of confidence going forward.
And forward he goes, but on his own terms, his own timetable.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.