Michael Weaver redshirted his junior year of golf to focus on getting into Cal’s Haas School of Business. If current events are any indication, they’ll be better off with him back.
The junior reached the final of the U.S. Amateur Open but fell in the final Sunday, losing to Steven Fox in a playoff after he missed his four-foot par putt to clinch the title on the 18th green.
“Just to see it slip through my fingers, it sucks,” Weaver told the AP. “And I know I had a great week and all that, but I’m not thinking about that right now.”
Weaver’s berth in the final capped a Cinderella run which began with a tenuous stroke play playoff win on Wednesday morning. With four Cal golfers already having clinched berths in the round of 64, Weaver had to sneak in, birdieing the third hole of the qualifying playoff just to make it to match play.
For Weaver, it was a long road to the final.
The Fresno, Calif. native had to come from behind to win his first three matches of the tournament. Weaver trailed Stanford’s Patrick Rodgers in the second round by three holes with six to play on Thursday, but sealed the victory on the final hole.
Later that day, Weaver lost the lead early and didn’t regain it until the 19th and final hole, taking down North Carolina State’s Albin Choi in the third round.
“I’m really happy with how I came back in both matches and stayed mentally tough through all the ups and downs,” Weaver said after clinching his berth in the quarterfinals.
After a relatively easy quarterfinal win, Weaver sealed a berth in next year’s U.S. Open and The Masters with a semifinal win over Alabama’s Justin Thomas on Saturday. The ease with which he qualified for the final surprised him.
“I didn’t quite expect this,” Weaver said. “I hoped that I would be here, but I by no means expected that I would be playing on Sunday.”
But Weaver’s luck ran out in Sunday’s final.
Leading by two with two holes remaining, Weaver conceded his lead to Fox, forcing a playoff. Fox clinched the title on the first playoff hole, draining a 20-foot birdie putt for the win.
Still, Cal’s showing bodes well for the fall season. A year after the Cal men’s golf team reached the NCAA semifinals in June, the squad has to like its chances for its second ever national championship.
Weaver wasn’t the only Cal golfer with an impressive showing at Cherry Hills Country Club.
Five Cal golfers qualified for the 312-member Championship — more than any other school in the country.
All but incoming freshman Walker Huddy advanced from stroke play to the match play round of 64 on Tuesday and Wednesday, and three advanced to the round of 32. Weaver and junior Brandon Hagy each advanced to the semifinals, where Hagy bowed out on Saturday after an impressive run.
Senior Max Homa and sophomore Michael Kim were Cal’s other representatives. Homa won his first round match before bowing out on Thursday.
It was the first time two Cal golfers advanced to the semis of the U.S. Amateur in the same year, and the fourth time any Bear advanced to the final. Robert Hamilton and Ben An are the only other Cal golfers to have ever advanced as far.
“I’m really proud of the way the guys have played,” Cal coach Steve Desimone said, “not just Brandon and Michael, but all five guys really competed and made this quite a U.S. Amateur.”