Colton Weaver wanted to get away.
How does a 15-year-old deal with the sudden death of his father? There’s no guidebook.
Well-wishers flocked to the Weaver house to offer condolences after Matthew Weaver’s death in July, but Colton couldn’t handle seeing them. It wasn’t until his friends knocked on his door one night to drag him to a team function did he start to heal.
The Rocky Mountain High School golf team’s season started a little more than a month after Weaver’s dad died.
Bi-weekly dinners were the norm for the team. One night, Weaver — a sophomore on the team — wasn’t feeling up to it, he wanted to retreat to his room alone.
Two teammates showed up at his house.
“No, you’re going. It’s not a team unless you’re there,” they told him.
Hours later, Weaver’s mom received text messages of them all bouncing around on a trampoline; all of a sudden, a bad day turned good.
It was the epitome of the strength of sport.
Weaver’s retreat ended up being to the place where he and his dad spent countless hours — the golf course.
“We would just go out and hit. He taught me how to play, along with my grandpa,” said Weaver. “It was really special.”
Golf is a family tradition in the Weaver house, with family rounds at Mariana Butte where Colton and his sister Cassidy picked up the game from watching dad.
This summer, the father-son duo had a slate of tournaments they scheduled to play together that started with a late-June competition at Highland Hills in Greeley.
Matthew died shortly after.
It was supposed to be a fun Fourth of July vacation at Lake Minatare in Nebraska. Colton, his dad, Matthew, mom, Judy, and some friends had a boat to spend time on the lake. Colton’s sister Cassidy, a year younger, was in California at the time.
On July 3, Colton and mom went out on the boat and encouraged Matthew to join.
“I’m going to hold down the fort,” he said, his common catchphrase.
Colton and Judy were on the boat when they heard the cotton trees that line the lake snap and crash. When they came to shore, Colton couldn’t find his dad and the sickening feeling of reality overwhelmed him.
His dad had been killed on impact when a tree fell, hitting him and two other people. Another man, Mark Pennell of Lakewood, was paralyzed and later died. The third suffered minor injuries.
“Devastating,” Colton says quietly, still unable to find words for the tragedy that robbed them of a family man who loved to golf, ski and cook on the grill.
The immediate weeks after were hard. Returning to school was difficult, too. Colton was starting his sophomore year while Cassidy, a gymnast and golfer, entered her freshman year at Rocky Mountain.
Again, well-wishers kept asking how he was doing, but he wanted space.
The golf course and the Rocky Mountain boys golf team became a safe retreat.
“Golf is a very peaceful sport, even though it can be frustrating at times,” Weaver said. “Just being out there was nice.”
Times with the team became special moments, whether it was going to Chick-fil-A after tournaments or celebrating practice putting tournaments like they had won the Masters. The team brought a type of therapy no one could plan or prescribe.
“It did a lot for the team and for us,” Rocky Mountain golf coach Chris Nickel said. “It does put things in perspective. Maybe you don’t get as agitated about something that doesn’t really matter. I learned a lot from him just trying to navigate it.”
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The Weavers are still coping, still trying to adjust. Golf helped Colton, but he also broke down at a tournament at Harmony Club, unable to deal with the weight of it all.
But he’s getting there.
“It’s still really hard on all of us. I’ve missed a couple days of school where I just couldn’t go,” Weaver said. “Things aren’t really normalizing, but they’re getting to the point where they’re starting to feel normal. We just carry on with our lives, do normal things, do stuff he would want us to do.”
Follow sports reporter Kevin Lytle at twitter.com/Kevin_Lytle and at facebook.com/KevinSLytle.