Western Golf Association, Evan Scholars

The Country Club of North Carolina is starting a youth caddie program as a part of the Evan Scholar Foundation. Pictured are youth caddies at Olympia Fields Golf Club in Illinois.

Golf and community involvement are two areas the Country Club of North Carolina prides itself in, and the club is preparing to start a youth caddie program that will embody both.

CCNC’s youth caddies will be a part of the Evans Scholars Foundation, which has a scholarship program that has sent more than 11,000 students to college on full-ride scholarships since its inception in 1930.

“The club has a long history of trying to be a good neighbor,” said Jeff Dotson, the club’s PGA Director of Golf.

“I think it’s a natural tie-in with golf and trying to help young kids gain some exposure to the game, while they are able to make a little bit of money. Especially with the potential opportunity with a scholarship, I think it’s kind of a no-brainer in that sense.”

Applications for the caddy program are geared toward youth in middle to high school and can be picked up at the CCNC gate on Morganton Road beginning on March 1. More information can be found at https://wgaesf.org/

The Evans Scholars Foundation is a part of the Western Golf Association, and last year awarded more than 250 scholarships to high school seniors from its caddy program nationwide, according to Senior Director of Development Matt Starr. He said that more than 1,000 scholars were enrolled in colleges this past year.

Scholarships through the foundation are based on both merit in the program and financial need.

The program’s track record was something that stood out to members and golf staff at CCNC when it looked into starting a program. The graduation rate for Evans Scholars is 95 percent, nearly triple the rate of first-generations college students.

“We’re excited because we think we’ve got a good core group of members we think that will support this,” Dotson said. “We hope that at some point not too far down the road we would have some kids who would in fact become Evans Scholars.”

Starr, an Evans Scholar himself along with his young brother and little sister, said that being a part of the program gives life skills to go along with the possibility of earning a scholarship. The same lessons he learned growing up caddying at Hinesdale Country Club in the suburbs of Chicago apply to those who caddy at CCNC.

“If you think about your round of golf at CCNC, you’re probably going to be caddying for someone who is successful. They might be a business person, a doctor, an attorney or someone who has been successful enough to join a nice country club,” Starr said. “If you’re 13 or 14 years old, your only experience with adults is your teachers, your parents and your parents' friends. So now you’re out there and it’s almost like a four-hour internship.

“There’s a lot of things you’ve got to learn. There’s communication with adults, also observing how these successful adults interact with each other and you learn a lot on the golf course about people’s character.”

Tanner Steiner, the PGA first assistant professional at CCNC, along with a handful of members will oversee the program, which will start modestly.

“They recommended the smaller the program to start to bring a high concentration of kids that are going to be eligible for the scholarship,” Steiner said. “It’s about getting the best kids and the kids that we think are the best fits for the program, and who we can help out the most.”

Steiner said that one to three caddies will be accepted in the first year, with possible growth coming with more member requests for caddies.

These caddies will be the only caddies at CCNC, which has had brief runs with youth caddies from the First Tee Program in the past. It will also be the only Evans Scholars caddy program in the area as the Midwest-based program looks to branch out East in the future, Starr said.

“Pinehurst is the American home of Golf. Just the town that has that mantra, it makes sense for the Evans Scholars program to have some sort of presence and involvement,” Starr said.

Partnering universities for the scholarship program are mostly based in the Midwest and the Great Lakes region, but Starr said more programs popping up and an increase of applicants in the Southeast could lead to starting partnerships with other universities closer to home for those caddies.

Funding for the scholarships comes mostly in part from revenues through the BMW Championship, a leg in the PGA Tour’s playoffs. Partnering clubs also contribute to the foundation, as well as alumni giving. In 2019, an estimated $17 million was donated by former scholarship recipients.

Dotson also sees this program as a way to grow the game with a younger generation for kids who might not otherwise see golf as an avenue for success.

“Going back a lot of years, especially in private clubs, a lot of kids were coming up and that was one of their first jobs, caddying at a club,” Dotson said. “It is a way to expose that next generation of kids who may not otherwise get any exposure in golf.”

Contact Jonathan Bym at (910) 693-2470 or jonathan@thepilot.com.

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