Amateur Weaver shines at soggy Bethpage

FARMINGDALE, New York Fri Jun 19, 2009 2:00pm EDT

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FARMINGDALE, New York (Reuters) - American amateur Drew Weaver, who narrowly avoided a shooting massacre two years ago, charged into contention at the U.S. Open on Friday.

Two over par after 11 holes when Thursday's first round was suspended because of heavy rain at Bethpage Black, Weaver recorded three birdies in a red-hot finish for a one-under 69.

That left the 22-year-old, making only his third appearance at a major championship, in a tie for the early lead with Britain's Graeme McDowell.

Weaver won the British amateur title in June 2007, two months after 32 people were massacred by a lone gunman at Virginia Tech university.

A junior at Virginia Tech, Weaver was just about to enter a classroom building on that fateful day when the shooting spree began in another building 100 yards away.

"It's not something we can ever forget," he told reporters. "It will always be in the back of our minds.

"I think it's something that you learn from and you cope with and I've done a good job of that.

"It took me a while but now, two years and a couple of months away from it, it's not something that I think about every day."

BETHPAGE DELAY

Weaver said Thursday's interruption at Bethpage was timed perfectly.

"The delay came at a very good time," he said. "The greens were just puddling up and I think everybody was ready to get off the golf course.

"Getting started this morning with pretty calm conditions was great."

Weaver vaulted up the leaderboard with birdies at the 13th, 16th and the par-three 17th where he rolled in a 22-foot putt in front of a packed grandstand behind the green.

"It was breaking pretty sharp, left-to-right, and it was really nice to pour that in," he said of his fifth birdie of the round. "To hear that roar was great."

Weaver, who missed the cut in his two previous major starts at the 2007 British Open and last year's U.S. Masters, said he had no expectations for this week.

"The tournaments I played the best in, I have no preconceived notion about how I should play," he added. "I just want to go out there, realize I am playing well and maintain that confidence.

"I was able to do that today really well."

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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