T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Mickelson's college roommate makes National Championship debut
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- When you think of the name "Weir" in golf, you probably think of 2003 Masters Champion Mike Weir, a lefty.
But this story is about another "Weir" and his connection to arguably the world's most famous "Lefty," Phil Mickelson.
Meet Ben Weir. The 44-year-old PGA Director of Instruction at Red Mountain Ranch CC and John Jacobs' Schools in Mesa, Ariz., is in Myrtle Beach competing in his first PGA Professional National Championship.
Weir spent two years (1990-91) as the college roommate and teammate of Mickelson, the five-time major champion, at Arizona State. The pair were members of the 1990 National Championship team (Mickelson won the individual title in 1989, 1990 and 1992).
"You can't argue about being able to live with and play alongside the best short-game expert in the world. But, if that's my only claim to fame, I'm in trouble, right?" Weir joked.
"Phil was great," he added. "I took a lot of notes when I lived with him. He always said he thought I'd be a better teacher than a player. It's hard to do both. You're either one or the other. I revert back to a lot of things he said in college and I've tried to live by that every day. It's helped me with my success and kind of revived my career a little bit."
Weir became a Class A PGA Professional just over a year ago. In his National Championship debut at the Dunes Club on Sunday, he shot a 2-over 74. Given the conditions -- hot and not much wind to speak of -- Weir admitted the round could have been better.
But, were it not for some Mickelson-esque short game magic, it could have been worse too.
"The real turning point for me was on No. 15," he explained. "I had a good drive and I flew the green into the back bunker. I had to pitch out of the bunker sideways because there was no way to hold the green. It would have run off the front of the green. So I chipped out 25 feet to the right so I could have a flat putt. Then I made the putt for par. That was really the turning point and gave me that momentum to birdie 16, the par 5. There are no gimmes out here, but 16 and 17 are both birdie chances if you put it in the right spot. No. 18 here is a 'hang tough' hole, so I was happy to finish with a par."
On Monday, Weir will move over to Grande Dunes for his second round, where -- based on the stats -- lower scores are easier to come by.
Weir will have to go low to make it into the third round. New this year, the top 90 players and ties advance to the third round of the National Championship. There's then a second cut after 54 holes to the top-70 and ties for the final round.
Weir didn't want to get too far ahead of himself, but should he make it to Valhalla, you can bet he'll be penciling in a special practice-round partner.
"If I'm lucky enough to earn a spot in the PGA Championship this week, I will for sure be playing a practice round with Phil at Valhalla," he said. "If it means we're a six-some on Tuesday of that week, I'll be playing with him. He won't get away from me."