By Noah Enright
As I walk onto the majestic golf course and glance down the sprawling par four with peaceful water to the right and manicured sand to the left I often ask myself, “Is this heaven?” Heaven maybe, but when I first began caddying a devil in the shape of a massive cherry red golf bag comes to mind.
I had just turned 14 when I started caddying and my golf experience consisted of hitting an orange ball through a windmill at the local putt putt. My first loop was on an early Saturday morning, my mom dropped me off into an empty parking lot while the sun was still fast asleep. I waited in line outside the caddy shack while dive bombing mosquitos attacked me at my most vulnerable spots. The caddy master handed me my chit assignment and thus began the bittersweet beginning that I would have with the game of golf.
The hulking red golf bag weighed more than a piano and as I hauled it onto my back its straps dug into my shoulder like an angry chiropractor. Looking back, I must have been a huge nuisance to my golfer, from walking directly in his putting line to losing his head cover, but to his credit he just kept smiling in my direction. He wasn’t the most skilled of golfers, his assortment of divots resembled bad hairpieces flying in the air, but he did enjoy telling stories and sharing his love for the game.
At the end of the loop I left the course with unsightly mosquito bites and a sun burn that would make David Hasselhoff wince. I also departed with two crisp twenty-dollar bills, a feeling of accomplishment, and a newfound friendship with a golfer who would years later champion my effort in applying for the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship. I started caddying to earn some extra money, little did I know that caddying would lead to a full college scholarship thus changing my life forever. As a proud 2016 recipient of the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship I have been dramatically humbled that the Western Golf Association would select me for this honor.
Since 1930, the WGA has administered the Evans Scholars Foundation, one of the nation’s largest privately funded college scholarship programs. This is thanks to Charles “Chick” Evans who outdistanced his achievements as a champion golfer by setting up his fund. He trusted the WGA with his legacy and, to date, the WGA has provided more than $348 million in tuition and housing in his name.
Each year, more than 930 deserving caddies attend college on full tuition and housing grants from the Evans Scholars Foundation. The average value of this scholarship is more than $100,000 over four years. To qualify, caddies must be nominated by their club and meet four requirements:
- Strong caddie record: Applicants must have caddied, successfully and regularly, for a minimum of two years and are also expected to caddie and/or work at their sponsoring club during the summer when they apply for the scholarship.
- Excellent academics: Applicants must have completed their junior year of high school with above a B average in college preparatory courses and are required to take the ACT and/or SAT.
- Demonstrated financial need: Applicants must clearly establish their need for financial assistance.
- Outstanding character: Applicants must be outstanding in character, integrity and leadership.
Applicants are evaluated and compete on the above criteria for the limited number of Chick Evans Caddie Scholarships awarded annually. The Scholarship Committee interview finalists and the final selection rests with the Committee. Almost all Evans Scholars attend one of the 15 universities where the Foundation maintains a Scholarship House.
The following is an excerpt from my essay to the Scholarship Committee.
“This spring I came home late one evening only to see my dad sitting alone in the kitchen with an appearance of hopelessness on his face. Only at my grandfather’s funeral have I ever seen such an expression on his face. I later learned that he lost his job. Thirteen dedicated years and now he was unemployed and in too much shock to do anything about it. Since this revelation I have rededicated myself and put a maximum emphasis on work. Besides caddying and working as a bag room attendant, I have also given guitar lessons and baby sat on the weekends. The money I earned has helped with my younger brother’s medical expenses and our household bills. I realized that I’m not only capable of helping out, but I have a responsibility to repay my parents for all the opportunities they have given me.”
The WGA invited me to interview in front of 60 green jacket wearing members. I was a nervous wreck. A week later I received a large envelope from the committee. Ironically, I opened it on the same table in which my dad felt his lowest. My entire family huddled together and yelled out a deafening YES! This was a dream come true, without it I would have never been able to afford a four-year university and my ambition to become a history and music teacher would have faced many financial obstacles.
Now when I look down from the first tee and watch the new caddies (my sister Grace among them) shield themselves from the sun’s attack and dodge morning mosquitos, I’m remembered of my bittersweet beginning and the many loops in between and ask myself again, “Is this heaven?” If heaven symbolizes philanthropic generosity, serving others, and the strength of one’s character, then YES this is definitely a slice of heaven.
Note – The 2017 BMW Championship will be played Sept. 12-17 at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Illinois. The tournament is the penultimate event in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. Only the top 70 golfers in the world qualify to compete. First held in 1899, the championship is the oldest tournament on the PGA TOUR and second oldest professional championship after the U.S. Open. All proceeds from the BMW Championship benefit the Evans Scholars Foundation. Since 2007, the event has raised more than $24.4 million for the Program.
About the author – Noah Enright is a sophomore Evans Scholar at Marquette University, his younger brother Ethan is a freshman Evans Scholar also at Marquette University studying accounting, and their younger sister Grace is a first-year caddy. All three caddie at St. Charles Country Club in St. Charles, Illinois.