DeWitt Weaver, Jr., was born into a football family. His father, DeWitt Weaver Sr., was a college football coach, most notably the head coach at Texas Tech from 1951 to 1960. In 1952, the younger Weaver picked up a golf club for the first time, and it was at that moment that it was suddenly not a forgone conclusion that he would pursue football after high school.
While Weaver did play quarterback and punted for the Lubbock High School Westerners, success that led to him earning a football scholarship to SMU, where he was a backup quarterback to eventual Dallas Cowboy Don Meredith, Weaver joked years later that a hit by Texas Christian’s Bob Lilly, who would go on to a Pro Football Hall of Fame career, also with the Cowboys, made it an easy decision for Weaver to turn his attention to golf. The decidedly non-contact sport became Weaver’s passion, eventually a small white ball and not an odd-shaped leather one figuring prominently into the future of Weaver, a two-time PGA TOUR winner and winner of one PGA TOUR Champions title.
Weaver died of heart failure March 18 at his home in Marietta, Georgia. He was 81.
Born September 14, 1939 in Danville, Kentucky, while his father was coaching football at Centre College, a Division III school, Weaver moved numerous times during his childhood, with stops in Starkville, Mississippi, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, occurring before the Weavers headed to Lubbock, Texas, when Weaver’s father accepted the Red Raiders’ head position.
All the while, Weaver worked on his golf game to the point he was ready to play for pay. After leaving SMU, where he played for the Mustangs’ golf team, Weaver embarked on a pro career that didn’t start well. He played in 13 PGA TOUR tournaments between 1964 and 1966, making a mere four cuts. Knowing he had to make major improvements, Weaver left the TOUR to work on his game, taking a job as a head pro at Cairo Country Club in Cairo, Georgia. While there, Weaver met Sam Byrd, a former PGA TOUR winner and New York Yankees outfielder. At the time, Byrd was a teaching pro in Alabama, and Byrd noticed something in Weaver’s swing. Byrd made a suggestion, and the tip helped. Emboldened by a better swing and the resulting improved game, Weaver returned to the TOUR full-time in 1967, winning four years later.
At the 1971 United States Professional Match Play Championship at Pinehurst, North Carolina, Weaver defeated George Archer, Doug Sanders, Julius Boros, Lou Graham, Bruce Crampton and Phil Rodgers at the Country Club of North Carolina on his way to the victory. A match-play wizard, in 11 matches in that Pinehurst tournament between 1971 and 1973, Weaver compiled a 9-2 record.
He backed up that triumph with a second title a year later, at the Southern Open in Columbus, Georgia. Weaver shot an opening-round, 7-under 65, playing with what he described as a “clogged ear.” He eventually had the ear drained of the blockage, the doctor commenting that he didn’t know how Weaver was able to keep his balance and play golf with the condition. Weaver, of course, wasn’t just playing golf, he was playing PGA TOUR golf and he was leading the tournament. With his ear issues rectified, Weaver didn’t waver, holding the second- and third-round leads before finishing regulation tied with Chuck Courtney. Weaver picked up win No. 2 in a one-hole extra session.
With a growing family with his wife, Sheri, whom he married in 1962, Weaver slowly began curtailing his TOUR life, dropping from playing in 31 events in 1971 to 11 in 1975. Looking to get off the road and semi-retiring from playing full-time, Weaver took a job as the head pro at Sea Palms Golf and Tennis Resort in St. Simons Island, Georgia. There, he remained active in Georgia Section PGA events, winning the Georgia PGA Championship seven times and the Georgia Open on four different occasions.
Competition in that state open was keen, and all four of Weaver’s Georgia Open wins came during a streak when current and future PGA TOUR players won the tournament every year between 1967 and 1981. Weaver’s first Georgia Open triumph came two months after his Southern Open title, a one-shot win over Wayne Yates, and his last was in 1979—with wins in 1973 and 1977 sprinkled in. Weaver’s last year with double-digit PGA TOUR starts came in 1983 (12), and he last played on TOUR in 1994.
Weaver later held head pro positions Sky Valley Country Club (Sky Valley, Georgia) and Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, current home of the TOUR’s Valspar Championship, always with an eye on turning 50. In 1989, Weaver resumed full-time touring golf, making his PGA TOUR Champions debut late in the season and winning in 1991 in his native Kentucky in his 53rd career start. At the Bank One Classic in Lexington, he came from five strokes off the pace on the final day then birdied the second playoff hole to edge J.C. Snead.
Weaver played in 405 PGA TOUR Champions tournaments, collecting a pair of runner-up finishes and three third-place showings to go with his lone win. His best money-list finish came in 1992, when he was 17th.
The Georgia Golf Hall of Fame inducted Weaver in 1998, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame inducting him in 2003 and the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame according the same honor a year later.
A devout Christian, Weaver is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sheri, and his children, daughter Cathy, and three sons: DeWitt III (Michele), who also won the Georgia Open, nine years after his father’s final win; Brian (Mary) and Scott (Nealie). He also leaves behind 12 grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled for March 26 at 11 a.m., EDT at St. Brigid Catholic Church in Johns Creek, Georgia.
Source: PGA tour