Web Exclusive: Chick’s Magnet

This year’s BMW Championship benefits the Evans Caddie Scholarship, the largest scholarship program in the world of sports.

Francis Ouimet, the 20-year-old amateur whose stunning upset of British pros Harry Vardon and Ted Ray in the 1913 U.S. Open, is arguably the most famous caddie of all time. A close second might be Eddie Lowery, the bucket-hatted 10-year-old who dutifully carried his friend’s bag.

But the caddie with the lasting legacy is Charles “Chick” Evans, who also won a U.S. Open as an amateur (1916) and two U.S. Amateurs (1916 and 1920). He started the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship with royalty money from golf instruction records and a book he authored. “My mother wouldn't think of accepting my money unless we could arrange it to be trusted to furnish educations for deserving qualified caddies,” he said. “She he pointed out that the money came from golf and thus should go back into golf. It was all her dream—her idea.”

Since 1930, when Harold Fink and Jim McGinnis received the first two Evans Scholarships, almost 10,000 caddies have earned college degrees as Evans Scholars.

BMW Championship General Chairman George Solich and Colorado Golf Association Executive Director Ed Mate are two of them, which is a big part of why they are so passionate about ensuring that caddies remain a vital part of the golf landscape.

“I owe a tremendous amount of whatever success I’ve had to getting the Evans Scholarship. It was a watershed event,” says Solich, who recaps his entrepreneurial career this way: “In 2000 I formed Cordillera One, our first company, then sold it; then Cordillera Two, and sold it; then Cordillera Three, and sold it. Now we’re on our fourth enterprise, called FourPoint Energy.”

Solich was awarded his Evans Scholarship in 1979. He studied business, thinking he might go into investment banking, not energy.

“We came from a very middle class background,” he continues. “I was the youngest of five boys, and getting a college education was not a guarantee. A high school education wasn’t even guaranteed. The opportunity to achieve a college education in a quality institution like the University of Colorado was really a life-changing event. It gave me the start I really needed.”

Mate, who has worked for the Colorado Golf Association ever since graduating from CU in 1988, has a framed print with individual thumbnail photos of his 46 Evans “housemates” hanging in his office.

In a paper he wrote describing the Evans Scholarship, he dubs it a “full-walk”—a play on what a caddie does—rather than a “full-ride,” the common term for a scholarship that pays tuition, fees, and housing. It is, in fact, the largest scholarship program in sports, and one of the largest privately funded scholarship programs in the U.S.

Evans formed the Evans Scholars Foundation with royalties received for golf instructions he recorded for the Brunswick Record Company and from authoring Chick Evans’ Golf Book. Not wanting to lose his amateur status, Evans said his mother, Lena, “pointed out the money came from golf, and thus should go back into golf. Furnishing educations for deserving, qualified caddies was all her dream—her idea.”

Today, the Evans Scholars Program is sponsored by the Western Golf Association, which partners with 23 state and regional golf associations, including the CGA. Proceeds from the 2014 BMW Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club the first week of September support the Evans Scholars.

The nation’s second-oldest professional tournament, the BMW is what was known for more than a century as the Western Open. As the event’s general chairman, Solich says he has two motivations: “I want the state of Colorado to be very proud again that we have the PGA Tour and the big boys back in our state. And I want to make the most money ever for the Evans Scholars Foundation. We really have a chance to hit it out of the park.”

More than 200 caddies are awarded “full-walk” scholarships each year to attend any of 19 universities, mostly in the Midwest but also the University of Colorado and University of Oregon. Evans Scholars are chosen based on financial need, academic performance, demonstrated character, leadership and their work as caddies.

An Evans Scholarship—worth an estimated $70,000—covers four years of college, and includes housing at the Scholarship House on 14 campuses (15 when a new house at Oregon opens). Mate still vividly remembers the impact of residing at the Eisenhower Chapter House in Boulder and sharing responsibilities for aspects of life there.

“I grew up in a house where my mom did everything,” he recalls. “I came home after my freshman year, and started doing the dishes. My mom was in tears. She wanted to know what was happening to me. To this day, I do dishes. That was an important life lesson for me, one I got by living at the Scholarship House.”

The one thing the Evans Scholarship does not provide is meals. Many residents of the Eisenhower Chapter House cover that by working as “hashers”—effectively food service workers—at the Chi Omega sorority house across the street.

“When I was there,” says Solich, “seven of 10 hashers at the Chi house were Evans Scholars, and all seven married ‘Chis’. All seven are still married. That’s how I met my wife, Carol.”

Fourteen Colorado caddies were awarded Evans Scholarships in 2014 (from more than 40 applicants). Four of them got their start at the Solich Caddie and Leadership Academy. Grant Cassell, the caddiemaster at the Solich Academy, is himself an Evans Scholar. He’s halfway through CU, and this year will serve as president of the Scholarship House.

Colorado AvidGolfer is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via www.coloradoavidgolfer.com.