Three months after seeing police swarm his campus during the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, golfer Drew Weaver says he is drawing strength from that difficult day to steady his golf swing in a rare bid at the British Open.
"Hearing the roars from the crowd is just really special. … It still doesn't seem real. … Wow, I played in the British Open," said Weaver, 20, who has been named the "World News Person of the Week."
He grew up in High Point, N.C., and reached this week's British Open in Angus, Scotland, after becoming the first American since 1979 to win the British Amateur Championship, which earned him an automatic spot at the open.
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The summer tournament follows what was an emotional and winning season for his Virginia Tech golf team.
Just a few days after Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting spree on the school's campus in April, the golf team continued to compete and claim a tie at the ACC Championship.
"We had a lot of extra help that day," Weaver said. "We really felt the 32 lives lost were looking down on us."
He and his team dedicated the win to their fallen classmates and teachers, and said it was "so special to be able to bring that trophy back to campus and bring something positive to the whole situation."
Weaver had just completed his sophomore year at Virginia Tech, and said he was 100 yards away from Norris Hall as the shooting rampage began.
"I saw the scene unfolding — tons of police, cars, SWAT teams everywhere," he said. "It was really a surreal scene. We didn't know what was going on."
"A cop came up pretty frantically yelling to tell us to run, get as far away as we could. It was group of well over 100 of us from lecture," Weaver added. "And then we heard five or six shots go off and everyone panicked. I just sprinted to the library 300 yards away and stayed there for 3½ hours."
Weaver survived the day, but nightmares lingered so he focused on his game. He made his way to England in June after his parents decided that he should enter the British Amateur Championship.
"We'd never been to Europe, and we thought we'd make it into a vacation," Weaver said. "I went over with really no expectation. I just wanted to play my game."
And that game was brilliant, as he cemented his win with a birdie on the 17th hole.
"I hit the putt and looked up, and it snuck in the right edge, and it was just an incredible feeling," he said. "So much relief, I was so physically and mentally spent."
But that wasn't the end of his European holiday, because the winner of the British Amateur Championship gets an automatic spot in the British Open, golf's oldest and most revered tournament.
Weaver played Thursday and said on the first tee, when he hit a perfect shot, it was "such a great feeling."
Weaver will return to Virginia Tech in the fall as a junior and a changed person.
He said the horrific experience of the shooting spree this spring had a noticeable impact on his attitude toward his golf game, and gave him strength for his debut at the British Open.
"No matter if I hit a bad shot or have a bad hole or play a bad round, it can only get so bad like on the golf course today. I mean I started out great, things were going well, but I struggled a little bit on the back nine. That's OK," he said. "I have a much more optimistic, positive perspective on things now."
He called the shooting one of those "life-changing moments."
"As long as I live it will always be a part of me," Weaver said. "It's something that I need to remember, and everything I do I want to honor the victims and represent the university."
Major tournament play isn't over yet for the college junior: Winning the British Amateur Championship also earned him a spot at next year's Masters Championship.
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