2008 Masters: Weaver lifts school’s spirits

Augusta, Ga. | Upon exiting the scorer’s hut, Drew Weaver did something he’d never done on a golf course: cried.

He wasn’t weeping because he just shot a second-round 80 and missed the Masters cut by nine. He thought he had let Virginia Tech down.

A large contingent from Blacksburg had followed him all week and was waiting behind the green. Coach Jay Hardwick was the first to embrace the inconsolable Weaver. Girlfriend Elizabeth Bills was next, then his mother, Cathy, followed by 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,” said Weaver, 20, a junior from High Point, N.C. “I never imagined I’d be that emotional.

The emotions started late on the back nine when I realized 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 this year’s Masters than Weaver. He had played 13 practice rounds at Augusta National.

“I was incredibly comfortable,” Weaver said.

“I almost felt as if the golf course was my home course.”

He was so comfortable that he played mentor to Johnson Wagner, a Virginia Tech alumnus who secured the last place in the field by winning the previous week’s Shell Houston Open. Weaver received a text early Monday. Later that day, they played a practice round, with the amateur showing the professional the ropes at Augusta National.

Weaver’s participation wasn’t just about doing well. It was part of Virginia Tech’s healing process.

A year ago on April 16, gunman Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting rampage on campus, killing 32 and injuring 25 before taking his own life.

Weaver was only 100 yards away when Cho started his mayhem in Norris Hall. Weaver and other students ran for their lives, taking refuge 400 yards away in the library. He waited there for 31⁄2 hours until he felt safe to leave.

The shooting took place on a Monday; Weaver had classes in Norris Hall on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Weaver has done more than most to help Virginia Tech recover. Last June, he became the first American to win the British Amateur in 28 years when he defeated Australian Tim Stewart at Royal Lytham. Weaver had a small patch on the Hokies golf bag that his father John carried that week. It read: Virginia Tech remembers 4.16.07.

Weaver wore the Virginia Tech logo around Augusta National on his bag, cap and outerwear. “I just want to represent the university in a good way,” Weaver said. “That’s why I wear the logo and carry the bag. I’m just trying to do it for them.”

Coach Hardwick tramped every foot of Augusta National with the pride of his Hokie team. He knew just how much effort Weaver had put into representing Virginia Tech in the game’s most exclusive tournament.

“He’s put his heart and soul into getting ready for this tournament, into carrying the pride of Virginia Tech,” Hardwick said. “That doesn’t surprise me, because he has a tremendous work ethic.

“Drew is a great example of the spirit of Virginia Tech. We’re resilient. That’s why we’ve managed to recover so well.”

Saturday morning, Weaver sat behind the clubhouse still 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.”

Sport psychologist Dr. Bob Winters has worked with Weaver since Weaver was a junior. He also walked every step of Augusta with his young student. He knew better than most the pain Weaver was feeling.

“He was mentally and physically ready, but this golf course is so tough that you can be just a little out and get punished,” Winters said. “I’ve told him to take the positives out of the week. He’s learned things here that will serve him well for the rest of his life.”

Weaver and his Hokies teammates now turn their attention to this week’s ACC Championship. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech shared the conference title last year, days after the massacre.

“A lot of memories are going to be dragged up,” Weaver said. “What happened last April puts missing the cut in the Masters into perspective."

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