Weaver, Fox Will Meet in U.S. Amateur Final
Weaver's birdie barrage too much for college player of year Thomas
by Gary Baines
Two players who barely snuck into match play at the U.S. Amateur will now square off for arguably the most prestigious title in amateur golf.
University of Tennessee-Chattanooga golfer Steven Fox and Michael Weaver of the University of California-Berkeley, who both needed a playoff to join the 64 players who advanced to match play, punched their tickets Saturday for the 36-hole final at Cherry Hills Country Club.
A day after knocking off the No. 1-ranked amateur in the world, Fox, seeded 63rd, defeated Brandon Hagy of Cal in a back-and-forth semifinal, 2 up.
And Hagy's Cal teammate, 60th-seeded Michael Weaver, toppled the college player of the year, Justin Thomas of the University of Alabama, 3 and 2, after being 5 up through 10 holes.
Weaver (pictured above with his dad/caddie) and Fox will face off in Sunday's 36-hole final, which begins at 7:30 a.m.
Suffice it to say both 21-year-olds have come a long way since Wednesday morning's 17 players-for-14 spots playoff. In that event within an event, Weaver made a birdie on the third extra hole to advance to match play, while Fox moved on with a par on the fourth -- and last -- additional hole.
"Whether you're the No. 1 or 64 (seed), you always have a chance," said Fox (pictured below). "It's awesome how we survived a playoff and got this far. It's really unreal."
The stakes were definitely high on Saturday, when an estimated 4,500 spectators were on hand at Cherry Hills. By being U.S. Amateur finalists, Fox and Weaver will receive exemptions into the U.S. Open and probably the Masters, provided they're still amateurs. The winner on Sunday also will get a spot in the British Open, again assuming he's still an amateur.
"I'm excited about Merion (for the U.S. Open)," Weaver said. "I think I'm more excited about going to Augusta (for the Masters)."
Between being in the final of the U.S. Am, and gaining berths in some of the top events in golf, Weaver was overcome by emotion a couple of times following his victory over Thomas. When he sank the 6-foot birdie putt on No. 16 that secured his berth in the final, Weaver raised both of his fists in triumph, then gave his dad/caddie, Bill, a bear hug.
"That was pretty special," Weaver said while fighting back tears. "I'll remember that forever. I'm so excited. My dad caddies for me all the time. I'm so excited he could be here to be a part of this. I owe a lot to him. He's supported me all along, and I wouldn't be here without him."
And Weaver will have even more family support on Sunday as his mother will return to Cherry Hills after leaving on Tuesday evening to help her daughter move into an apartment in San Diego. And Weaver's sister and a couple of his dad's friends are expected to be on hand, too.
Weaver started off his semifinal with three straight birdies. And the All-American who finished eighth in the NCAA finals made six birdies overall, including the clincher on No. 16.
"My start was incredible; it was awesome," Weaver said. "To start like that in the biggest match I've ever played in, that was an awesome feeling."
After Weaver made a birdie on No. 10 to go 5 up, Thomas rallied, as he had in his three previous matches. He won holes 12 and 14 with pars, and 15 with a birdie, to cut the deficit to 2 down. But Weaver's short birdie on 16 ended the comeback.
"Although it hurts a lot to lose, especially this late in the tournament, it's a lot better to get beat than to lose," said Thomas, the fifth-ranked amateur in the world. "With 5 down through 10 against a player like Michael, when he was playing as well as he was, there's just not enough holes."
With Weaver and Hagy in separate matches, "Go Bears" was yelled on several occasions by spectators on Saturday. And though Hagy took a 1-up lead on No. 9 and kept it through No. 13, he couldn't hold on.
"One out of two (Cal players in the final) is a little bittersweet," longtime Bears coach Steve Desimone said. "It's great to have one in (but we) would have loved to have had two."
In Fox's win over Hagy, no player led more than 1 up until after the 18th hole. After being 1 down, Fox won 14 and 15 with pars when Hagy missed par putts of 5 feet and 8 feet.
When Fox put his 4-iron approach on No. 18 to 4 feet from the cup, and with Hagy unable to make birdie from 40 feet, the match ended.
"The shot on 18 was unreal," said Fox, winner of the 2011 Tennessee Golf Association Match Play Championship and a round-of-16 player at this year's U.S. Amateur Public Links. "I was just trying to put it on the green or find a way to make par. It was the best shot of my life by far."
Neither Fox nor Weaver are in the top 100 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, with Fox No. 127 and Weaver No. 149.
For match play results and pairings, CLICK HERE.
U.S. Amateur: All the Essentials
What: The 112th U.S. Amateur, the oldest USGA championship.
When: Aug. 13-19. The 36-hole final on Sunday will begin at 7:30 a.m.
Where: Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village (7,409 yards, par-71). Cherry Hills is hosting its ninth USGA championship (3 U.S. Opens, 1 U.S. Women's Open, 2 U.S. Amateurs, 1 U.S. Senior Open, 1 USGA Senior Amateur, 1 U.S. Mid-Amateur).
Format: 36 holes of stroke play Aug. 13 and 14, with each golfer playing 18 holes each at Cherry Hills and CommonGround. The top 64 players will advance to match play, which will be held exclusively at Cherry Hills. The first round of matches is Aug. 15, the second and third rounds are Aug. 16, the quarterfinals Aug. 17, the semifinals Aug. 18 and the 36-hole final is Aug. 19.
Starting Field: 312 players. (6,403 golfers originally sent in entries.)
Winner Receives Exemptions In: 2013 Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, along with the next 10 U.S. Amateurs, providing he remains an amateur.
Tickets: Available at King Soopers stores and at TicketsWest.com. A daily ticket is $17.50. Kids 17 and under are admitted free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.
Television: Sunday, 2-4 p.m., NBC.