From Tragedy, Weaver Makes New Memories

By Leonard Shapiro
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland, July 17 -- There was a former British Open champion to the left of Drew Weaver and the reigning Masters champion to his right on the first tee at Carnoustie on Tuesday morning. But U.S. Ryder Cup player J.J. Henry headed straight to Weaver, shook his hand and gushed: "Congratulations, man. That was just awesome, a great accomplishment."

The Virginia Tech junior blushed just a bit, then a few minutes later stepped up and smacked a shot down the middle of the first fairway, clearly showing he belonged in the field of the 136th British Open.

As the first American to win the British Amateur in 28 years, Weaver, 20, will be playing in his first career major championship this week, three months after the worst day of his life.

"Hollywood couldn't have written a better script than what's happened to Drew this summer," said his father, John, a family-practice physician in High Point, N.C., who will caddie for his son here this week.

As they did last month, when Drew swept through the British Amateur field at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, the two will stroll the grounds here with John lugging a slightly battered Virginia Tech golf bag bearing a patch that reads "VT Remembers: 4.16.07."

Drew Weaver will never forget that April 16 day in Blacksburg, when a gunman killed 32 people on campus and wounded 25 before killing himself in Norris Hall, the classroom building 100 yards from where Weaver was just getting out of an accounting class.

"I was in McBride Hall with one of my teammates, Walt Boyd, and I had already seen an e-mail about the first shootings," Weaver said. "We heard the sirens in the class. When we got out, we looked over at Norris, and we didn't know what was going on. We saw a policeman and he yelled, 'Take cover, run as fast as you can and get out of here.' Then we heard the shots go off. It was such a surreal sound. It still gets to me. It's hard for your brain to function very clearly, but a bunch of us ended up in the top floor of the library until it was over. I think about it all the time. How can you not?"

When he won the British Amateur after defeating Australian Tim Stewart, 2 and 1, in a 36-hole final, Weaver said: "I dedicate this entire week to Virginia Tech and the lives that were lost on April 16. The scale of what happened there was so incredible. Winning a British Amateur is so minute compared to everything the victims went through that day."

Weaver decided to go to Virginia Tech even though his father was a graduate of Wake Forest, a golf power that didn't recruit Weaver until he had fallen in love with Virginia Tech. Jay Hardwick, the longtime Hokies golf coach, had been a mentor of Jim Brotherton, Weaver's swing instructor in High Point and a Virginia Tech graduate himself.

"I think Drew just felt really comfortable here," Hardwick said. "He decided to make up his mind before his senior year and not worry about the whole recruiting thing. He's just a great kid, a really good student and he works hard at his game, second to none. There's no question he has a future on the [PGA] tour. He really does have everything it takes."

Weaver initially had hoped to play in several of the top American amateur competitions this summer, but because he was not that highly ranked in world amateur golf, he did not qualify. Because so few Americans compete in the British Amateur, he was able to get into the field.

Initially, he and his parents came to England on a combined golf and sightseeing expedition, though as he began practicing, Drew told them he wanted no part of any castle or cathedral jaunts. The week before he left, he had a session with his short-game coach, Russ Sanderlin, who made some fixes in his putting stroke that immediately paid off.

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