Director Spotlight: George Solich
This story first appeared in the Winter 2012 WGA Evans Scholars Magazine. View the original story.
From Evans Scholar to Energy Entrepreneur
It was George Solich’s older brother, Geoff, who got him to the caddie yard when George was 13 years old. The Broadmoor was a bike ride away from the boys’ home in Colorado Springs. It was 1974. Geoff had his eye on earning an Evans Scholarship and was counting every loop toward achieving his goal. Coming from a lower middle-income family with five boys, college was going to be a stretch.
A world-class resort, The Broadmoor has welcomed presidents, politicians, celebrities, athletes and some of the greatest names in golf over the years. In other words, it was a great place to be a caddie.
“I learned the traditions of the game, met successful people, and acquired valuable life skills,” George recalls. “There’s a work ethic you acquire through caddying that stays with you forever.”
Both George and Geoff went on to earn Evans Scholarships. “That was the moment in life that changed everything,” George says.
He entered the University of Colorado at Boulder in the fall of 1979, with aspirations to become an investment banker. But the big energy boom of the early 1980’s changed all that. George switched his major from finance to mineral land management. He had more than a hunch that there was an opportunity to seize.
During his time at Boulder, George lived in the Evans Scholarship House and worked across the alley at Chi Omega. He was a “hasher” who served meals at the sorority. It was where he met his future wife, Carol. Actually, George was one of seven Evans Scholars who worked at the sorority and they all met and married Chi Omegas. “Not a bad gig,” George laughs.
After graduation in 1983, George launched his career in the oil and gas industry with the Houston-based Apache Corporation. “Everything I learned about the business, I learned there,” he says.
At first George didn’t care much for the industry. Perhaps this had something to do with the bust that soon followed the boom. But he ultimately realized that the energy industry was “not a bad place to hang my hat” and he went on to earn an M.S. degree from the University of Colorado at Denver in 1991.
After a heralded rise at Apache, George formed Cordillera Energy
Partners in 2000, ultimately coordinating the successful sale of the company for $245 million three years later. His next venture, Cordillera Energy II, sold in 2008 for $1.025 billion.
And Cordillera Energy III? It was acquired for $3.1 billion by Apache Corporation in 2012—a merger that made George Solich particularly proud. “I built a successful business and delivered it to the company where I started,” he says.
Despite the pace of his work—or perhaps because of it—George has always made time for golf, a true passion. Today he is a member at several clubs, including Cherry Hills Country Club, Castle Pines Golf Club—and The Broadmoor. All three clubs actively support caddies on the course. “A great golf club has to have a great caddie program—period,” says George, who served as caddie co-chair at Cherry Hills for three years.
In fact, George believes so strongly in caddying as a youth development tool that he and his brother established the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy in 2012. Launched in partnership with the Colorado Golf Association, the Academy recruits lower-income, inner-city youth to learn and benefit from golf through caddying.
“George inspires the belief that anything is possible if you put your mind and heart in it,” says Ed Mate, executive director of the Colorado Golf Association and an Evans Alum whom George credits with getting the Academy up and running.
The Academy is housed at CommonGround Golf Course, an affordable public facility located in the heart of Denver that is owned and operated by the Colorado Golf Association and Colorado Women’s Golf Association. The Academy provides a 10-week summer program to approximately 30 teens a year, offering caddie training as well as leadership and community service opportunities. A top priority for the Academy is to provide a path for teens to an Evans Scholarship.
Because the Western Golf Association recently launched its own pilot caddie academy, there will be ongoing opportunities for collaboration. “We are watching the Solich Academy closely and expect to gain valuable knowledge as we work together to expand caddie resources for underserved youth,” says John Kaczkowski, President & CEO of the Western Golf Association.
George Solich has been a WGA Director since 1997. “It was a privilege to receive the Evans Scholarship and I want to help others have the same experience,” he says. George continues to be one of the WGA’s greatest ambassadors and financial supporters, always ready to take an extra loop for the cause. In both 2011 and 2012, George took a leadership role in the Match Play Challenge, the WGA’s new major gifts initiative that has already raised millions of new dollars for the Evans Scholars Foundation.
Most recently, George played an instrumental role in securing the 2014 BMW Championship for Cherry Hills Country Club—a win-win for the Evans Scholarship program in Colorado and the game of golf.
The theme of giving back extends well beyond the golf community for George Solich, who considers his many charitable and civic involvements a responsibility he welcomes. Among his commitments, George helped establish a Center for Commodities at the University of Colorado’s Business School in Denver and is now part of a task force with the University of Colorado at Boulder to transform the athletic program to achieve sustainable excellence year in and year out. He and Carol continue to be very involved with the Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado UpLift and ACE Scholarships.
When George was asked to put his name on the golf academy he helped establish, he was reluctant at first. He’s not one for “slapping my name on things.” But then he and Geoff thought about it. “We figured we’re a pretty good example of what can happen when people invest in life-changing programs like the Evans Scholarship,” he says.
-First printed in the Summer 2012 WGA Evans Scholars Magazine