Masters Brings Wagner, Weaver
April 8, 2008
By Alex Davidson
Augusta, Ga. - Already forever linked by their school colors,
a lightning bolt of good fortune has them golfing siblings of
sorts this week at Augusta National Golf Club. Johnson Wagner
and Drew Weaver made quite a pair during Monday's first
official practice round at the Masters.
Wagner, a Virginia Tech product, was the last man to receive
an invitation into the 72
Masters, qualifying Sunday by winning the Shell Houston Open.
Weaver, a senior at Virginia Tech, has known since last
summer that he would playing at Augusta after putting an
exclamation point to an incredible run at the British Amateur
at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, England.
So a little more than 12 hours after Wagner's winning
putt dropped at Redstone Golf Club and sealed the automatic
Masters invitation that goes with a PGA Tour victory, the two
enjoyed a stroll around Augusta National.
"I got a text from him [Wagner] about one o'clock
[in the morning] asking if he could join me today," said
Weaver, of High Point, N.C., who has played Augusta National
about a dozen times since his surprise victory at Royal
Lytham & St. Annes, England, to become the first American
winner of the British Amateur since Jay Sigel in 1979.
"Obviously, it's just an added bonus for him to be
here this week."
Wagner, who graduated from Virginia Tech in 2001 and now
lives in Charlotte, N.C., met Weaver last year at the Wyndham
Championship in Greensboro, N.C. They hit it off enough to go
watch Virginia Tech's football team play an emotional
game against East Carolina that weekend. That was the first
football game on campus since a shooting spree by Seung-Hui
Cho at Virginia Tech last April claimed the lives of 32
"You know, I think we're both equally blessed being
here at the Masters," said Wagner, who played one round
at Augusta in 2003 with his great uncle.
Wagner had quite a bit of help getting to Augusta so quickly
to be able to enjoy such an early practice round. The Sea
Island Company shepherded him from Houston on a private jet
that arrived in Augusta around midnight. He stayed at a house
in town rented out by his management company.
Weaver may be the amateur, but he was the one showing Wagner
most of the nuances of the course. He gave Wagner a crash
course, so to speak.
But there was more going on than just two rookies learning
the ropes at one of the most difficult and picturesque
courses in the world. Many patrons recognized Wagner and knew
he had just won the previous day at the Shell Houston Open to
get the last Masters berth. Others were enthusiastic Virginia
Tech fans, and Weaver was decked out in his orange and
burgundy and donned a VT hat.
Weaver also had Virginia Tech plastered on his golf bag.
Wagner's 3-wood head cover has the school colors.
Many people are aware of what happened that April 16 day on
the Blacksburg campus when Cho, a Virginia Tech student,
gunned down students and faculty members in the worst mass
shooting in U.S. history. Cho later ended his own life.
Six days after that horrific event, Weaver and the Hokies
golf team authored a heartening story when they won their
first Atlantic Coast Conference title, tying powerful Georgia
Tech thanks to a final-day rally.
Wagner was playing in a pro-am in Florida with another
Virginia Tech product, Brendan De Jonge, when the shootings
occurred. He has never talked with Weaver about the day.
"We have never talked about it. I haven't really
talked about it with anyone, except Brendan on the day it
happened," said Wagner. "You know, I wasn't
there. It was a horrible thing. There was a shock factor. But
I can't relate to what that must have been like."
Weaver said there has been great support from the golf
community since the tragedy, as well as the country at large.
But he also knows that he won't be able to avoid the
questions about it.
"Just having something with the Virginia Tech log
instantly you get associated with April 16 and it's very
unfortunate," he said. "But people, when they talk
about it, it's always in a very supportive way. It's
nice having all of the support. We definitely needed it, and
we still do."
Nevertheless, there he was on Monday averring that he will
proudly wear the school colors.
And why not? Why shy from the truth? On Monday, the truth led
to some soothing cheers and smiles and good vibes. The two
soaked it all in, the atmosphere and the fact that they could
share it together, brothers in a special bond that might be
tinged with sadness but, overall, is a very special
Wagner, exhausted but running on euphoria and adrenaline, was
able to sum it up best. "Today is the greatest day on
the golf course I ever had."
Alex Davidson is a freelance writer whose work has
appeared previously on www.usga.org.