Weaver lives out dream by winning British Amateur
By Jimmy Robertson
June 26, 2007
Drew Weaver and his parents traveled to England a week ago, with Drew expecting to play a little golf before joining his parents to see some of the sights on a trip that was planned almost more as a dream vacation. As fate would have it, the trip turned out to be more of an incredible dream - one that came true - than an actual vacation. Weaver, a rising junior from High Point, N.C., who plays on Virginia Tech's golf team, played a week's worth of outstanding golf, one which ended with Weaver knocking off Tim Stewart 2 & 1 in the match play championship final of the 2007 British Amateur Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes in Lancashire, England. The stunning victory marked the first by an American in the British Amateur since Jay Sigel won the event in 1979. He became the first American to advance to the finals since Jim Holtgrieve in 1983. Weaver and his family forsook seeing Britain's finest tourist attractions. But gazing at that championship trophy made it more than worth it. "It hasn't sunk in, no, not at all," said Weaver during an interview while driving from his home in North Carolina to Atlanta on Monday afternoon for another golf tournament. "There were quite a few people waiting to meet us at the airport when we got back, and we had a big party at our house. It's been overwhelming. It hasn't sunk in yet. I don't want to wake up from this dream." Weaver doesn't rank as your resident weekend hack, but his victory certainly came as a surprise. The R&A (derived from the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) ranks amateur golfers based on a complicated criteria that obviously takes into account how a player performs at amateur tournaments, and Weaver was ranked 181st in the world. He had not won a tournament this year, though he finished second once. Of late, he finished 12th at the ACC Championships and 23rd at the NCAA East Regional. He did not qualify for the NCAA Championships. Also, Weaver had zero experience playing links-style courses, with their sand dunes, water hazards, thick, uneven rough, and deep bunkers. He had never been to Europe and he certainly hadn't played in the windy conditions common to England. And his hopes were dampened somewhat after his first practice round at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. "I had been hitting it pretty good and I knew my game was in good shape," Weaver said. "The weekend before I left, I played a couple of practice rounds at my home course and shot 64 both days and tied the course record. I was making putts and I went in [to the British Amateur] with a lot of confidence. "But my first practice round over there, the wind was blowing about 40 mph and I shot an 82. I thought to myself, 'What have I gotten myself into here?' They give you a caddy to help you learn the course and I told my caddy that the cut would be 15-over if this wind kept up. But it [the wind] calmed down and I got a couple of extra practice rounds in. After that, I felt real comfortable with links golf." Weaver was one of 288 players in the field. The tournament consists of two rounds of stroke play, with the top 64 advancing to match play. Weaver, with his dad as his caddy during the tournament, made it out of stroke play - one of just two Americans to do so. The run continued. He beat Luis Garcia of Spain 4 & 3 in the first round of match play to advance to the round of 32. Then he disposed of Simon Ward of Ireland and Kevin McAlpine of Scotland 2 & 1 on the same day to advance to the quarterfinals. The next day, he won two more matches, beating Great Britain's Chris Wood and Jason Shufflebotham of Wales both by scores of 2 & 1. In the 36-hole championship final, Weaver dominated until the end. He led by six with six holes to play, but a poor chip on No. 13 enabled Stewart to win the hole, and that got Stewart back in the match. He won the next four holes, heading to No. 17. On No. 17, Weaver - a prodigious hitter off the tee - blasted a great drive down the middle, but he missed the green on his second shot, and Stewart hit his second to within 20 feet of the hole. Faced with a tough chip, Weaver managed to get his ball within seven feet of the cup. Stewart was first to putt and just missed a 20-footer that would have sent the match to the 18th hole. Weaver, trying every technique imaginable to remain calm, only needed to make his 7-footer to win the championship, and his putt caught the right-center of the cup and dropped. "I couldn't believe it was over," Weaver said. "I was so spent. I had played almost 36 holes of golf a day for three straight days and it was finally over and I had won. "I think it was a big surprise to a lot of people. You don't see a lot of Americans winning over there because the conditions are so different. But I was so driven and so focused. I just blocked out everything on the outside. The golf I played was some of the best I've ever played. Everything just clicked." Afterward, Weaver accepted the trophy and then met with the media. He dedicated his win to the 32 who died and the many others who were injured during the tragic events on the Tech campus on April 16th. All through the week, his Virginia Tech golf bag served as a reminder of what and whom he represented in that tournament. "That's [April 16th] going to stay with everyone for the rest of their lives," said Weaver, who was on his way to class at a building next to Norris Hall - the site of the shootings -that morning and spent the next three hours holed up in the library. "It's always going to be with you. But this [the shootings] is not what we want to be remembered for. I wanted to do my part to portray a positive image for the university, and I hope I helped." That goes without saying. Weaver's win brings with it a ton of positive publicity when one considers what came with that win. For example, he earned the right to return to England in a few weeks and play in the 2007 British Open held at Carnoustie. He'll likely be paired with Tiger Woods, the world's No. 1-ranked player, as the R&A usually pairs the reigning British Open champion with the current British Amateur champion. "That would be incredible if that's how it works out," Weaver said. "That would be something I'll never forget. To have that big gallery following you around would be amazing. I don't know if he'd talk any, but maybe I could pick his brain. It would be an incredible experience just to play with him and see some areas in my game where I could improve." Weaver also received an invitation to the 2008 Masters at Augusta National in Georgia. "That would be a dream come true," he said. "That's the perk that sticks out. Every golfer in the U.S. dreams of playing the Masters. I can't imagine what it would be like to tee it up there." He also received a four-year exemption to the U.S. Amateur - arguably the most prestigious amateur tournament in the nation - and he'll play in Georgia the week before the Masters next April against the U.S. Amateur champion. And finally, he received an exemption to play in the Scottish Open in a couple of weeks leading up to the British Open. Weaver, though, will probably decline that one. Despite being dog-tired, he's slated to play in the Dogwood Invitational in Atlanta starting tomorrow (Wednesday), and then next week, he'll play in the North-South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst. He plans on taking some time off to rest before heading back overseas to play in the British Open. "I am tired and I thought about not playing this weekend, but I didn't get into this tournament and they had a few players back out, so the tournament director pulled some strings and got me in," Weaver said. "So I didn't want to back out of my commitment after he had done that." As the old saying goes, there is no rest for the weary. And without question, Drew Weaver is a little weary these days. Actually, what he needs is a dream vacation. And looking back at what took place last week, he's already taken care of the 'dream' part of that.