Drew Weaver broke down as soon as he stepped out of the scorer’s hut. He did something he’d never done on a golf course before – he cried.
Weaver wasn’t weeping because he’d just scored 80 in the second round of the 2008 Masters to miss the cut by eight shots. He was crying because he’d let down Virginia Tech University .
Unlike the other competitors in that Masters field, Weaver’s participation wasn’t just about doing well: it was part of his healing process.
Twelve months before Weaver made his Masters debut, on the 16th of April 2007, 33 people lost their lives at Virginia Tech when gunman Cho Seung-Hui went on a shooting rampage.
Weaver was just 100 yards away when the mayhem began in Norris Hall. Weaver and other students ran for their lives, taking refuge 400 yards away in the library. He waited there for three and half hours until he felt safe to leave.
It was a case of there but the grace of god for the 20-year-old. The shooting took place on a Monday. Weaver had classes in Norris Hall on Tuesdays and Wednesday.
Weaver did more than most to help Virginia Tech recover from the tragedy. In June 2007 he became the first American to win the Amateur in 28 years when he defeated Australian Tim Stewart at Royal Lytham. Weaver placed a small patch on the golf bag his father John carried that week. The patch simply read: Virginia Tech remembers 4:16:07.
Weaver carried the Virginia Tech Logo proudly around Augusta National too; it was on his bag, cap, and outerwear.
“I just want to represent the university in a good way. That’s my main goal. That’s why I wear the logo. I’m just trying to do it for them.”
Waiting for him behind Augusta’s 18th green that Friday was a large contingent from Virginia Tech who had followed him all week. First to take the inconsolable Weaver into his arms was Virginia Tech coach Jay Hardwick. Girlfriend Elizabeth Bills, now his wife, was next, then mother Cathy, followed by other Virginia Tech friends and alumni.
None could stem Weaver’s tears.
“I felt like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, the weight of Virginia Tech,” Weaver said. “I never imagined I’d be that emotional. The emotions started late on the back nine when I realised I wasn’t going to make the cut.
“I can’t really tell you where the emotions came from. It just hit me as I was walking out of the scorer’s area. There were so many people standing there who had come to support me. I felt like I’d let them all down. Everyone told me they were proud of me, but it’s still tough signing that scorecard and knowing the week’s over.”
No first timer was more prepared for the 2008 Masters than Weaver. He had played 13 practice rounds over Augusta National before he teed it up in the Masters proper. His first round came the previous December. The day before New Year’s Eve, he made the trip from his home in High Point, North Carolina.
“I was incredibly comfortable. I almost felt as if the golf course was my home course.”
He was so comfortable he played mentor to Johnson Wagner. The Virginia Tech alumnus took the last place in the field that year courtesy of winning the Shell Houston Open. Weaver received a text in the early hours of Monday morning. That’s how they ended up playing a practice round on Monday, during which the amateur showed the professional the ropes at Augusta National.
It worked. Wagner made the cut and finished T36.
Weaver had stopped crying on Saturday morning, but he was still in despair as he sat behind the clubhouse trying to come to terms with missing the cut.
“It is going to be hard to recover from this,” Weaver said. “First thing I need is sleep and rest. I’m absolutely drained mentally and physically. I’ve played an incredible amount of golf. My hands hurt, my feet hurt. I’m a little worn out.”
Weaver’s career hasn’t taken the path he expected it to take when he won the Amateur Championship. He’s yet to play his second Masters gig. The affable American is still trying to earn a foothold on the PGA Tour never mind qualify for the first men’s major of the year.
Now 33, Weaver plies his trade on the Korn Ferry Tour. He has one professional win, the 2015 PC Financial Open on the Mackenzie Tour–PGA Tour Canada.
At world number 1,117, he’s a million miles away from another Masters. Never mind, what happened on 16 April 2007 will always ensure Drew Weaver has a sense of perspective.
#JustSaying: “If you can get around Augusta, hit the shots here, there’s no golf course you can’t play.” Padraig Harrington