By Sean Martin, Golfweek
To get you ready for the 2013 Masters, we are breaking down the amateurs and first-timers that will play at Augusta National starting on Thursday, April 11.
Age: 21 (turns 22 on April 12)
Hometown: Fresno, Calif.
How he qualified: U.S. Amateur runner-up
Michael Weaver attended the 2009 Masters for his 18th birthday, which was the same day as Angel Cabrera’s playoff victory over Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry.
Weaver’s 22nd birthday falls on the second round of this year’s Masters. He has a tee time at Augusta National that day. That was no gift, though. Weaver earned the opportunity by finishing second at last year’s U.S. Amateur. The redshirt junior for No. 1 Cal is one of six amateurs in the Masters field – and will be the first from Cal to play in the Masters while a member of the Golden Bears.
“My goal would hopefully to be low amateur,” Weaver said. “If I make the cut, I’ll be pretty excited to say I played the weekend at the Masters in my first try.”
Weaver is No. 21 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. In three starts during the spring season, he's finished third twice and, in his last tournament before Augusta, 11th at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters on March 8-10. For about 10 days after the event he did not play golf, only practiced, because of midterms. Academics are important at Cal, where Weaver is pursuing a business administration degree through the prestigious Haas School of Business. Weaver has had more time to practice since midterms wrapped up. He said he’s been working on his putting from inside 10 feet and chipping from tight lies.
“I’ve hit it pretty well, played well tee-to-green, but I haven’t been as strong from inside 10 feet as I’d like,” Weaver said.
He’s a long hitter with a high ball flight, two attributes that will help him at Augusta National. He’s trying to treat his first major like a typical event, though. He’ll stay in the Crow’s Nest early in the week, but then move into a rented house with about 10 friends and family.
“I don’t want to do anything drastically different,” Weaver said. “I don’t want to over-prepare. It’s a huge deal, but when I step on the course, I want it to feel like another tournament.”
Weaver nearly arrived at Augusta National as the U.S. Amateur champion. He was 2 up with two holes remaining in last year’s final, but Steven Fox won the 17th with a birdie and Weaver’s 4-foot par putt at No. 18 to win the title hit a bump and lipped out. Fox holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to win the Havemeyer Trophy.
Weaver, who beat reigning college player of the year Justin Thomas in the U.S. Amateur semifinals, also has an exemption into this year’s U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. Weaver’s father, Bill, who caddied for his son at the U.S. Amateur, also will carry Michael’s bag in the Masters’ Par-3 Contest. It was Bill Weaver who arranged the Augusta trip for Michael’s 18th birthday.
Weaver has played one previous professional event. He Monday qualified for last year’s TPC Stonebrae Championship on the Web.com Tour, shooting 72-75 to miss the cut. Weaver was a redshirt at the time, sitting out the college season to prepare for Haas' demands. Now he's a major-championship participant. He visited Augusta National in January for practice rounds.
“When I was on the first tee, I was like, ‘Wow, this is actually happening.’ It was a little hard to believe,” Weaver said. “The first (practice) round, I was in awe. After that, I tried to accomplish what I went there for, to learn the course. I feel like I did a good job of that.”