During the second week of April, with the semester in full swing, Michael Weaver, BS 14, set aside his studies as an undergraduate business major and set out across the country for a different kind of course.
At an outdoor classroom called Augusta National Golf Club, Weaver competed in the Masters, golf’s prestigious springtime rite.
“It’s a memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life,” Weaver says.
A red-shirt junior, Weaver gained admission to the 2013 Masters with a runner-up finish at the 2012 U.S. Amateur Championship, becoming the first current member of the Cal golf team to qualify for the storied event. (Bears Robert Hamilton and Ben An also played in the Masters, in 2002 and 2009, respectively, but were not members of the Cal team at the time.)
Weaver arrived in Augusta, Ga., the Sunday before the tournament to learn his way around wildly contoured course and spent his first two nights in the Crow’s Nest, the famed accommodations above the clubhouse where Masters amateurs traditionally stay.
“The rooms aren’t fancy at all,” Weaver says. “They’re really not much nicer than a college dorm.”
But they offered easy access to a hallowed layout that Weaver had revered since he was a kid. Born and raised in Fresno, Calif., Weaver picked up golf when he was 10, introduced to the game by his parents but taught the swing by a local pro named Cindy Vining, the only formal instructor he has ever had.
As his game matured, Weaver discovered that the golf course and the classroom were a lot alike. “You get out of it what you put into it,” Weaver says. “The harder you work, the more payoffs you see.”
Drawn to economics and investing, Weaver opted for a business major at Cal with thoughts of a possible future in financial services. But the PGA Tour has long been his prime target; after graduation, he plans to turn pro.
Weaver knows he faces a steep learning curve, and Augusta offered him a valuable crash course. Despite first-tee jitters, Weaver parred the first hole of Thursday’s opening round and soon eased into the rhythm of the competition. Friday’s second round fell on Weaver’s 22nd birthday, and the Cal Bear celebrated the occasion with birdies on two of his final four holes. Though he missed the cut with rounds of 78 and 74, he looks back on the week as a real-world education, a golf competition that doubled as career-day.
“I probably could have shaved a few shots here and there,” Weaver says. “But I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong there, and that’s the most important take-away for me: I know that if I work hard and stick with it, I can compete with the best players in the world.”