Notes VaTechs Weaver Honors Slain Students

By Associated PressApril 7, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- With his schools logo on his shirt, cap and golf bag, Drew Weaver looks a lot like all those other college kids whove been lucky enough to earn a spot at the Masters over the years.
 
Except Weaver plays for Virginia Tech, and proudly representing his school has taken on a whole new meaning in the last year.
 
With everything thats happened, Im more than happy to wear the logo and try to put a positive reputation for the university out there, he said Monday. Every time that I go out with a Virginia Tech logo on my bag or my shirt or my hat, Im going to be playing for all of our students and our faculty and everybody involved with the university.
 
Obviously, those who passed on April 16 last year are going to be right in the forefront of who Ill be playing for.
 
It was last April 16 that a student opened fire in a classroom building on the Virginia Tech campus, killing 32 students and faculty members before killing himself. One of the victims, Ryan Clark, was from Martinez, Ga., a suburb of Augusta.
 
Weaver, who would have been in a class in that very building at the same time the next day, was in an accounting class about 100 yards away when the shootings occurred. He and a teammate were leaving their building when they heard gunshots.
 
It was a terrifying few seconds, he said. We couldnt really tell where the shots were coming from. We had a general idea, but we didnt know if they were coming towards us. It was just one of those natural instincts to get as far away as possible, and thats what we did.
 
Is it something that I think about every day? Id say it doesnt necessarily come into my thoughts every day, but its definitely very frequent, Weaver said. Everywhere you go, people ask how the university is doing, and thats great. We appreciate the support, but it is tough to relive the memories.
 
But hell do it, if only so those who were killed arent forgotten.
 
He wore the Virginia Tech logo and colors last summer, when he played in the British Open after a surprising victory at the British Amateur. Weaver was the first U.S. player to win the British Amateur since Jay Sigel in 1979. No American had even made the final since 1983.
 
As the British Amateur champion, he also earned a spot at Augusta.
 
My whole summer was a blur, looking back at it. I didnt really have that much time to think about going to the British Open and playing in it, but this is different, Weaver said. Its just such an incredible week and I just cant believe'I still cant believe that Im actually a part of it and playing in it.
 
Weaver had played Augusta National 13 times before Mondays practice round, enough to make him feel at home. He even gave Johnson Wagner a few pointers. Wagner, a Virginia Tech alum, clinched a spot at the Masters on Sunday with his victory at the Houston Open.
 
No amateur has made the cut the last two years. But Weaver hopes he has the game'and the patience'to end that trend.
 
You see a lot of guys get impatient and make a bogey or two and end up blowing up, he said. I want to stay patient because I know I have the game.
 
And plenty of support.
 
INTERNATIONAL INVITES
Prayad Marksaeng has a big group of fans this week.
 
His entire country.
 
Marksaeng is the third Thai-born golfer to play in the Masters, receiving one of the exemptions given to foreign players who wouldnt otherwise qualify. Liang Wen-Chong of China and Indias Jeev Milka Singh also got exemptions, which are designed to help broaden golfs appeal around the world.
 
I am representing my country this week, and it will energize golf, Prayad said. Everyone will be watching the Masters.
 
Prayad, 42, got interested in golf as a way to pass the time on his way to school. He had to walk across the Royal Hua Hin Golf Club to get to school and, at 12, decided he could make the walk go quicker if he hit a golf ball with a club made out of a tree branch. He later shagged balls for Suthep Meesawat, one of the top pros in Thailand at the time.
 
When Prayad got older, the owner of the Royal Hua Hin club started a team and gave Prayad his first set of real clubs.
 
Prayad has won six times on the Asian Tour, and in 1999 became the first Thai to qualify for the British Open.
 
Its great to be here, not just for myself, but for my friends and family, Prayad said. Ill try to do my best. This is a lifetime dream.
 
Sukree Onsham was the first Thai-born golfer to play at Augusta National, appearing in 1970 and 1971. Thongchai Jaidee was here in 2006. Neither made the cut.
 
Of course, Thailand does have a claim to the worlds best player. Tiger Woods mother, Kultida, is from Thailand.
 
Prayad has played with Woods. The two were paired for the first two days of the 1997 Asian Honda Classic, which Woods won by 10 strokes.
 
It was very hard for me to concentrate that day, Prayad said. There were so many people, but they werent there to see me.
 
SPECIAL VISIT
Stephen Ames came up to Augusta National three weeks ago for a practice round, and he brought some company. Ames invited a teenager from his junior golf program in Trinidad, 17-year-old Ben Martin.
 
Hes still calling to say thank you, Ames said. Hes a good kid, a good player, and Im glad I did it. He got to play eight holes, including Amen Corner, which he probably wasnt supposed to do. It was lot of fun. This can open his eyes, let him see things he wouldnt normally see, and picture where he wants to be someday.
 
Ames said Martin is good enough to get a college scholarship, perhaps somewhere in Florida.
 
The trip to Augusta was on Monday of the CA Championship at Doral, and Martin certainly had a full week. He returned to Miami with Ames, and when the tournament was carried over to Monday because of rain, he wound up caddying for Ames for the final four holes.
 
DIAPER DANDY
Sean OHair made his Masters debut in 2006, and played Augusta National for the first time that Tuesday in a practice round with none other than Tiger Woods and Mark OMeara.
 
Talk about a nerve-racking experience.
 
I needed a diaper, just in case, OHair said last month at Bay Hill. It was pretty overwhelming.
 
When he arrived Monday and headed for his locker, he found his allotment of golf balls, gloves, hats'and thankfully, no diapers.
 
I was expecting to see one in there, he said. If you do put one in there, just make sure its clean.
 
OH NEAUX, TIGERS!
This wasnt the result David Toms wanted.
 
No, not his golf game. Thats fine. His alma maters basketball team, now thats a different story.
 
Toms stayed up late Sunday to watch LSU play Tennessee in the national semifinals. It was the fifth straight year the Lady Tigers had made it to the Final Four'and the fifth straight year they lost in the semifinals. This loss was particularly tough, with Tennessee winning 47-46 on Alexis Hornbuckles putback with less than a second left.
 
It was a good game, Toms said. Too bad we came out on the losing end again.
 

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