GOLF, Illinois (November 8, 2016) – The Western Golf Association’s sixth annual Green Coat Gala, held Friday, Nov. 4, at The Peninsula Chicago, raised $900,000 – a record for the event – to help send deserving caddies to college through the Evans Scholars Foundation.
More than 350 Program supporters attended the black-tie affair, which featured the legendary Johnny Miller, a two-time major champion and NBC analyst, as the guest speaker. All proceeds benefit the ESF, a nonprofit administered by the WGA, which provides full college tuition and housing scholarships to caddies. Currently, a record 935 Evans Scholars are attending 20 universities nationwide.
Miller, 69, got his start as a caddie at San Francisco Golf Club. He went on to dominate the PGA TOUR in the mid-1970s, winning 14 PGA TOUR events between 1974 and 1976. He was the PGA TOUR’s leading money-winner and Player of the Year in 1974. At the Gala, veteran NBC/Golf Channel commentator and emcee Mark Rolfing held a “fireside chat” with Miller, where they touched on topics including balancing family and career, his time on the TOUR and how caddying helped grow his love of golf.
Miller also was inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame, which celebrates those who have devoted their lives to the game of golf through caddying or supporting the role of caddies. “My start (caddying) made me fall in love with golf for the rest of my life,” he said.
Notable Caddie Hall of Fame members include Program founder Charles Chick Evans, Jr., Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, actor Bill Murray, Bandon Dunes founder Mike Keiser and Andrew Martinez, who caddied for Johnny Miller for 12 years.
“For Johnny, caddying and his love of golf were intertwined as a youth,” said WGA Chairman David Robinson, upon inducting Miller into the Hall of Fame. “Two memorable things he has shared that should leave no doubt of his caddying skills: One, that in all of those years of caddying, he never lost a ball. And two, that he never caddied for someone he couldn't beat.”
Miller is remembered by most golf fans for his brilliance at the 1973 U.S. Open when he carded a masterful final-round 63 – dubbed “The Miracle at Oakmont” – to capture his first major championship. His score has been matched by only one other player in major championship history. Miller was named lead analyst on NBC Sports’ golf coverage team in 1990 and quickly made his mark as the sport’s most candid commentator. In May 1998, he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida.
Zack Sielck was the featured Evans Scholar speaker at the event. A freshman at Purdue University, he caddied at McHenry Country Club in McHenry, Illinois. He shared his story of how the Evans Scholarship and caddying changed his life. Growing up, he bounced from various foster homes before finding a safe haven with his current parents, Brigid and Jason. As he began to heal from childhood wounds, he began caddying – not knowing that it would change his life.
“Caddying is the outlet that restored my confidence, helped me believe in the person I could be and built me up into who I am today,” he shared with the crowd. “I have broken down some of the barriers I built growing up. Earning the Evans Scholarship has allowed me to push my boundaries and strive for more. I am beyond blessed to be a part of the Evans Scholars family – and to finally find a place where I belong.”
Past featured speakers at the Green Coat Gala have included Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Gary Player. The funds raised from the 2016 event will help send caddies to college – at a time when a record number of applicants are applying for the Evans Scholarship. The Evans Scholars Program is expanding from coast to coast, with leaders planning to have 1,000 caddies in school by the year 2020.
“The record-breaking success of the sixth annual Green Coat Gala shows us that the work we are doing to change the lives of bright, young students is more important than ever,” Robinson said. “We are thankful to everyone for their support and dedication of this special event.”
The 2016 event co-chairs included Tim and Stacey Cavanagh, Mick and Karen O’Rourke, Mike and Sharyl Mackey and Bill Rogers.