Caddies from The Olympic Club, Bob-O-Link GC, Rose City GC, Beverly CC, Midlothian CC, the Lochmoor Club and Park Ridge CC (an “Evans powerhouse”) were highlighted in the feature about students who earn college scholarships through the program.
The Wall Street Journal recently featured the Evans Scholarship program, to highlight how caddying jobs at golf courses and country clubs across the country can turn into full rides to college for about 250 youngsters each year.
The Journal’s feature began by telling the story of Qinglin Chen, who took nine Advanced Placement courses at Lowell High School in San Francisco and also devoted free time to tutoring and volunteering at a soup kitchen.
But it was “a heavy load of a different kind”—a 30-pound golf bag—that ultimately won the 17-year-old Chen a full scholarship to Northwestern University, the Journal reported. In addition to her other activities, Chen, who stands 4 feet 11 inches and weighs just over 100 pounds, spent two summers caddying at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, and that helped her become one of about 250 incoming freshmen who are offered free tuition and housing each year through the Western Golf Association’s Evans Scholars Foundation.
Chen actually declined the Evans Scholarship to Northwestern in favor of a similarly generous aid package she got from Princeton University, the Journal reported. But even though she won’t be going to school on the caddying scholarship, she said, her summers on the links were great fodder for her college essays.
“It really shaped how much I think I’m capable of,” she said.
The 85-year-old Evans program seeks students who show academic strength, financial need and—above all—caddying capabilities, the Journal explained. Founded by the golf group and amateur golfer Charles “Chick” Evans Jr., the scholarships are funded by country club members and proceeds from the BMW Championship pro tour event.
While some of Chen’s friends interned in air-conditioned offices or just slept in, the Journal reported, she earned her Evans scholarship by regularly rising before dawn, learning to chitchat with sometimes grumpy players and lugging their heavy, awkward clubs about five miles per round in the hot sun.
“The first summer, I would dread the days when I had a round,” Chen told the Journal. “My parents picked me up from the club and I was drenched in sweat.”
The grants issued through the programs could be called “Caddyshack” scholarships, the Journal reported, because Bill Murray, who played the deranged greenkeeper with a gopher fixation in the 1980 cult classic movie, and his brother Brian Doyle Murray, who wrote the film’s script, were among six brothers who grew up caddying at the Indian Hill Club in Winnetka, Ill.
The efforts of the eldest Murray brother effort to land an Evans Scholarship provided inspiration for the Danny Noonan character, according to Andy Murray, who along with all of the other brothers co-owns the Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurant at World Village Golf in St. Augustine, Fla., the Journal reported.
At Northwestern University’s real-life Evans Scholars House, a “Caddyshack” poster hangs on the wall and freshmen gather to watch the film each fall, the Journal reported.
“I don’t share the sense of humor of a 65-year-old man,” Collin Barnwell, a Northwestern junior who spent five years at the Bob-O-Link Golf Club in Highland Park, Ill, told the Journal. But Barnwell added that during his caddying days, he often pulled out stock lines from “Caddyshack,” drawing enough laughs from golfers to keep tips coming, even when he was bored.
While golf may be less and less a sport of the masses, with rounds played in 2014 down over five million from 2003’s 30.6 million, the Journal reported, the Evans Scholarship program is stronger than ever.
Scholarship recipients are generally concentrated at about a dozen public universities in the Midwest, the Journal reported, but the program is expanding rapidly, with record-high applications, increased enrollment by women and a new house in the works at the University of Oregon.
The foundation, which raised a record $3.5 million through the BMW Championship last fall, aims to have 1,000 scholarship students in school each year by 2020, up from 870 today, the Journal reported.
Still, fellow students often can’t believe that caddying can earn someone a full-ride—especially since Evans Scholars don’t play or caddie for their college golf teams.
“I mostly get a hard-core side-eye from people when I tell them I’m here with a golf-caddie scholarship,” Hannah Rice, a sophomore theater major at the University of Oregon who caddied at Rose City Golf Course in Portland, Ore., told the Journal.
Park Ridge (Ill.) Country Club, just outside Chicago, is an Evans powerhouse, with 21 current Evans Scholars, the Journal reported. Park Ridge’s caddies, who hail from as far as Chicago’s South Side, work six days a week, make between $40 and $50 per round to start, and can work their way up to $100 per round.
“All we’re looking for is somebody who doesn’t mind getting up at 6 o’clock in the morning and doesn’t mind working hard along the way,” Park Ridge’s caddie master, Ken Goodwin, told the Journal.
Being a good caddie, though, requires a careful reading of players’ body language, the Journal noted. Do they want to chat, or walk in stone silence?
Hannah Rice told the Journal of a Marine she caddied for who had two sternly enforced rules: Keep pace, and don’t swear.
But one day, she noted, he was having a terrible game, including hitting a tree, and ending up four-over-par by the 11th hole. “That’s when I learned caddying isn’t just about keeping up. You’re very much there for moral support,” Rice said.
Caddies also have to learn to be discreet, the Journal reported. Richard Golz, now a junior at Northwestern, was caddying at the Beverly Country Club in Chicago when a 40-something female golfer celebrated a long-shot birdie by jumping up and down and pecking the then-13-year-old on the lips. “She just went in for it,” he recalled, blushing and shaking his head.
Then there is the downtime between rounds or during bad weather, when caddies shoot hoops, play poker or watch movies.
Kathleen McAuliffe, a junior at Northwestern who caddied at Midlothian (Ill.) Country Club from when she was 13, can still quote liberally, albeit unenthusiastically, from the three movies on constant rotation in that club’s hangout—“Tommy Boy,” “Happy Gilmore” and “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”
One thing the caddies aren’t expected to be is great golfers, the Journal noted. David Pawlak, a senior mechanical engineering student at the University of Michigan who worked at the Lochmoor Club in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., has never played a full round.
“I love watching golf. I enjoy the sport itself. But I don’t really have the time or the means to be good,” Pawlak said. “Instead of playing, I was working.”