What connects the president of John Deere, the chairman of Kimberly-Clark, and the CEO of Iridium, a satellite communications company that played a critical role in SEAL Team Six’s raid on Osama bin Laden? Sam Allen (Purdue ’75), Tom Falk (Wisconsin ’80), and Matt Desch (Ohio State ’80), along with more than 10,400 other everyday heroes, are all alumni of the Evans Scholars Foundation.
By Justin Sharon
Founded by legendary golfer Charles “Chick” Evans, Jr., the Evans Scholars Foundation has provided deserving young caddies with college scholarships since 1930. At that time, during the early days of the Great Depression, annual fees for instruction at Northwestern University amounted to $150 – a huge amount for the average student. Today, with tuition and housing expenses at colleges that participate in the Evans Scholars program exceeding $17.5 million each year, the Foundation’s mission is more important than ever.
The Evans Scholars Foundation is also the sole beneficiary of the BMW Championship, receiving all net proceeds from this penultimate event in the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup Playoffs and four-time Tournament of the Year honoree. Formerly called the Western Open, the BMW Championship was created in 2007, allowing BMW to work in tandem with the Western Golf Association to help in the scholarship’s growth.
Jeff Harrison, Senior Vice President of Education for the Western Golf Association/Evans Scholars Foundation, hails BMW as a “tremendous partner” that has helped the organization “reach new heights.” In the past decade, over $21 million has been raised for the Evans Scholars Foundation through the BMW Championship, and several Scholars have interned at BMW offices across the country. At the tournament each Fall, BMW has created the BMW Hole-in-One Scholarship, celebrating the first hole-in-one recorded during the tournament. Should a PGA TOUR player record an ace, BMW will provide a full, four-year Evans Scholarship worth $100,000. In 2015, Jordan Spieth’s ace marked the fourth time in five years this prestigious prize was awarded, when he aced the second hole at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, IL.
“We’re thrilled to be able to work alongside the WGA to help broaden the awareness and support for the Evans Scholars Foundation as they seek to send 1,000 caddies to college by 2020.”
Trudy Hardy, Vice President of Marketing at BMW of North America
Years ago, the comedy classic Caddyshack was partially inspired by Bill Murray’s elder brother Ed’s quest to obtain the Evans Scholarship. This Fall, for the fifth successive year, record numbers of caddies have sought entrance into the program – and an unprecedented 935 Evans Scholars are currently enrolled at some 20 universities nationwide.
Scholarships are administered by the Western Golf Association, and based upon four key criteria: outstanding academic achievement, exemplary character and leadership skills, financial necessity, and exceptional caddying capabilities. Prospective candidates undergo a rigorous interview process in which they must make their case before a selection committee.
Once admitted, most Evans Scholars attend one of the 15 institutions where the Foundation owns and operates a Scholarship House, providing a communal living experience. Central to the Evans experience, this is where Scholars live, learn life lessons, and look out for one another. The houses help nurture a “very cohesive group” on campus and function as a “second family” for the students, Harrison points out. The newest chapter recently opened at the University of Oregon and additional expansion plans are afoot.
According to Harrison, caddying imparts critical life lessons and, by offering the opportunity to essentially work for a “new boss each day,” is among the best summer jobs a young person can have. Mark Abtahi, a senior at the University of Illinois, and Haelena Schwemmer, who graduated from the University of Missouri, are two recipients of the BMW Hole-in-One Scholarship. Abtahi, who is currently concentrating in structural and geotechnical engineering, began caddying at the age of 13, diligently arriving at the course early every morning while friends were enjoying their days at the beach. He remembers his deep gratitude after the scholarship notification letter arrived – appropriately enough, a day before Thanksgiving – noting that it opened up an infinite array of opportunities, free from the debt burden endured by so many of today’s college students. Schwemmer, a lifelong automobile aficionado, credits caddying as imbuing in her the values of honesty and integrity. She recalls a chance conversation with a former Evans Scholar that resulted in an internship and, ultimately, full-time employment at Watlow Electric in St. Louis. She has been able to apply the principles honed on the golf course, such as dedication and teamwork, to her subsequent job with the Marine Corps, where she eventually hopes to fly helicopters.
“We are very proud of our partnership with the Western Golf Association,” said Trudy Hardy, Vice President of Marketing at BMW of North America. “We’re thrilled to be able to work alongside the WGA to help broaden the awareness and support for the Evans Scholars Foundation as they seek to send 1,000 caddies to college by 2020.” Thanks in part to BMW and the generous support of golfers nationwide, generations of college-bound caddies will be able to enjoy a happy Hollywood-style ending.