Weaver playing with purpose at Open

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – When Drew Weaver played his first major, the 2007 British Open, he was trying to heal a mourning community with his play.

It was a burden Weaver was proud to bear, but a burden nonetheless.

Two years later, Virginia Tech has healed and so has he. Now Weaver is playing another major, and playing well. His first-round 69 at Bethpage was tied for the low score among the 78 players with the misfortune of teeing off in Thursday’s rain.

“Personally, I’m kind of with everybody else that was involved,” said Weaver, of High Point, N.C. “We’ve moved on. It’s not something we can ever forget. It will always be in the back of our minds. But we definitely moved on.”

Now Weaver is playing with another purpose – to represent the United States in the Walker Cup. It’s the sole reason he stayed amateur this summer after graduating Virginia Tech.

He was the second alternate for the team in ’07. He won the British Amateur that year, just months after the Virginia Tech shooting in which 33 were killed. He sometimes would hear gunshots as he stood over putts at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, his mother, Cathy, said Friday.

Many people thought he should have been included on the ’07 team for becoming the first American in 28 years to win the British Amateur, and for the way he graciously represented his university at the British Amateur at Carnoustie.

Weaver is making a strong case again this year. He finished eighth at the Sunnehanna Amateur last week and tied for seventh at February’s Jones Cup, two premier amateur events.

He got in the U.S. Open after surviving a 6-for-4 playoff in sectional qualifying at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md. To get in the playoff, Weaver had to make birdie putts of 40 and 30 feet on his 15th and 16th holes of the second round.

This is Weaver’s seventh pro event, and his third major; he has yet to make a cut.

“All of that came with the emotions of the shooting,” his mother, Cathy, said. “He really deeply felt a sense of, ‘This will help make it right, to play well.’ ... That was how he was coping. And if he didn’t play well, he didn’t cope as well.”

Weaver has also grown more comfortable in pro events, as well.

“(I’m) much more relaxed,” he said. “Now coming into this week, I’m not really a guy that’s on the driving range looking left and right, ‘Oh, wow, I’m next to Tiger Woods.’ ”

He was briefly atop the leaderboard Thursday when he made birdie on No. 4 to get to 1 under, but was 2 over after 10 holes when play was called.

Weaver woke up at 5 a.m. Friday. His first stroke of the day was a 2-foot par putt on the 11th hole.

“You never want to get the day started missing a 2-footer, so it was important,” Weaver said. “That was big.”

He had a 40-yard bunker shot on the next hole, but got up-and-down with a 12-foot putt, one he called “a gamebreaker.”

Then he made a 20-foot birdie putt on 13, a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 16 and a big-breaking, 20-foot birdie putt on the 206-yard, par-3 17th.

“That amphitheater is unbelievable,” Weaver said. “That was one of the neatest feelings that I’ve had in awhile.”

Weaver graduated from Virginia Tech earlier this year with a degree in business marketing. He had a 3.3 GPA.

“It’s nice to be a graduate and represent (Virginia Tech),” Weaver said. “I’m thankful I was able to do it, but it’s nice now to go out and be on my own and play for me. I think it definitely lifts some burdens.”

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