Posted: July 11, 2015 10:46 pm
Five-thirty in the morning.
It’s a time most people would rather sleep through, but Alli Weaver is probably glad that she didn’t Saturday.
While her parents headed off to the beach to start their vacation, Weaver was answering a text message from Lancaster Country Club’s head golf pro Rick Gibson.
The 24-year-old was going to play in the U.S. Women’s Open.
After failing to qualify for the Open last month at a USGA tournament at Galloway National Golf Club in New Jersey, Weaver had spent most of the week as merely a spectator, but now it was time to grab her clubs.
Following Friday’s second round of play, the championship field of 156 golfers shrunk to just 63. That odd number left Haruka Morita-WanyaoLu, the last player to qualify, all alone to tee off at 8:24 a.m. — until Weaver was tabbed as a non-competitive marker.
“It definitely never got easier, I can tell you that,” Weaver said of the experience. “My nerves never really let down. I didn’t really care what I shot today, honestly. I was just trying to get the ball in the fairway off the tee.”
Although her parents might not have been able to watch her play, spectators who recognized Weaver started to follow her in droves. The Warwick graduate, who played collegiately at Murray State, ran into trouble with a triple bogey on No. 3 and a double bogey on No. 7 to finish with an 82.
She was all smiles, however, as she walked the course, soaking in the day and the cheers from the crowd.
“Go get ’em Alli,” someone yelled out as she walked down the 11th fairway.
“Let’s go Alli Weaver,” another fan added further down the course.
“By like my third hole, I had a lot of members recognizing that I was out there and cheering me on,” said Weaver. “It was really cool to see the members out here. It just shows how much interest they have in me playing.”
Weaver has become a familiar face at the club, working in the golf shop and having played the course more times than she can count. Before Saturday, her biggest round there came at the Women’s Western Amateur, held last year.
The insider’s perspective may have helped, but Weaver was quick to point out that there were a lot of changes — including tee positions — which resulted in a much different layout.
“Last year at the Amateur, there definitely wasn’t this big of a crowd,” Weaver said with a laugh when comparing the two tournaments. “I said a couple of times, the rough is really thick. It was fun to hit out of, but I tried to avoid it the rest of the day. The bunkers, I think, are different as well.”
The championship might provide invaluable experience itself as Weaver heads out to California for an LPGA qualifying tournament next month.
“I don’t ever want to regret not trying,” she said. “I’m just going to do it and see what happens.”
Looking back on her round, Weaver said a tough chip shot on 11 stood out as her best golf moment, but it won’t be the thing she remembers most.
“The roar of the crowd was the coolest thing today,” she said. “You would be standing over a putt and, I don’t know who was putting or made a shot or did something great, but I have never heard a crowd. … You can hear it on TV, but when you’re standing there that close, it’s amazing.”
The moment was also special for Sean Hennessy, an LCC caddie who carried Weaver’s clubs.
“When you’re down here caddying golf everyday, you don’t hear that,” said Hennessy. “I just imagine for her (Weaver), she just makes a routine par and people applaud her and that’s got to feel pretty good.”
The assumption is that Weaver will be back as a marker for Sunday’s final round, but there has been no official word from organizers.
Either way, there’s no tarnishing this moment for the 24-year-old.
Asked how this ranks among her many accomplishments, all Weaver could do was smile and hold up a single finger.