CHICAGO, Illinois – Jack Nicklaus, the world’s greatest golf champion, headlined the Western Golf Association’s third annual Green Coat Gala, a black-tie event that raised more than $900,000 for the Evans Scholars Foundation on Wednesday night.
About 350 attendees packed a ballroom at The Peninsula in downtown Chicago to attend the event, which featured Nicklaus – the winner of 18 major championships, two Western Open titles, and the Western Amateur Championship – fielding questions from longtime friend and two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North, lead analyst for ESPN’s golf coverage.
Nicklaus covered a wide range of topics during his chat with North, a fellow Western Amateur winner, including his friendship with fellow icon Arnold Palmer and his most memorable wins and losses. Nicklaus has a record-best 19 runner-up finishes at major tournaments.
Nicklaus said he was proud to support an organization like the Evans Scholars Foundation that does so much for the game of golf and for young people.
“I think the Evans program is about citizenship and it is about sportsmanship and it is about being a good person because, without those traits, you’re not going to earn a scholarship,” Nicklaus said. “You’ve had several thousand kids go through the program and that’s pretty significant. To have that many people influenced by the game of golf through caddying. It’s special.”
The early portion of the program concluded with Nicklaus being inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame.
“Jack has been a longtime supporter of caddies and the value of the caddie in the game of golf,” said WGA President & CEO John Kaczkowski. “There is no one more fitting for this honor than you. On behalf of the WGA, please accept this award in appreciation of all you do for golf.”
Throughout the evening, Nicklaus emphasized the role caddying played in his success as a golfer.
“I started as a caddie, just like a lot of other kids,” Nicklaus said. “If my father hadn’t taken me out and said, ‘I need somebody to carry the bag,’ I wouldn’t be sitting here tonight, I’m sure of that.”
The sold-out event raised more than $900,000 to help fund college scholarships for deserving golf caddies. Volunteer event chairs were Sharyl and Mike Mackey, of Chicago.
The evening concluded with a speech from Mark Abtahi, a current University of Illinois Evans Scholar freshman, who described how the Evans Scholarship has changed his life.
“The Scholarship means more to me than I can express,” Abtahi said. “Because of your generosity, I have received a chance to earn a great job someday and to be in a position to pay forward the kindness that I have received from people like you. One day, I promise to help others just as I have been helped.”
Peggy Kusinski, award-winning member of the NBC 5 Chicago sports team, served as emcee for the evening.
To view a photo gallery from the Green Coat Gala, click here
Watch the video below to see Jack Nicklaus being inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame.