WGA Caddie Academy
The Western Golf Association’s Caddie Academy has completed its fourth summer, providing a group of 43 female high school students from across the nation the opportunity to work at local golf and country cubs along Chicago’s North Shore.
For seven weeks beginning on June 21 - Aug. 8, 2015, the girls lived in the Northwestern University Evans Scholarship House and had a chance to caddie daily at one of eight participating clubs.
This unique program allows its participants – with an emphasis on minorities and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds – a chance to experience the benefits of being a golf caddie, from learning life lessons to being around successful adults.
Those who complete the program are eligible to apply for the Evans Scholarship, which provides a full, four-year tuition and housing grant to top universities across the country. The prestigious Evans Scholarship, a program supported by the WGA, is awarded to caddies who demonstrate financial need and strong character, as well as outstanding caddie and academic records. This fall, more than 900 Evans Scholars will be enrolled at 19 universities across the nation.
“The Caddie Academy provides a special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for hard-working young women to be introduced to caddying and the sport of golf,” says the WGA’s Mike Maher, who helps oversee the Program. “Their ultimate reward is a chance to earn a full scholarship to college.”
Female Evans Scholars Alumni lived in the House with the girls, serving as counselors and supervising and mentoring the group, as well as driving the girls to their respective clubs each day.
Throughout the Program, special activities were planned for the group, such as a trip to a baseball game, special career talks from successful females or ACT prep training.
The Caddie Academy is fully funded by a private donor. In 2013, WGA Director Fritz Souder and his family committed to fund the program with a gift of $300,000 through 2015. Proceeds from the annual Women’s Invitational golf fundraiser also benefit the Academy.
In 2015, 52 girls from across the country applied to participate in the Program. Of that group, 17 new participants were invited to take part, joining the 27 other girls already caddying from previous years. This summer’s group include young women from Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and Little Rock, Arkansas. Ninety percent are minorities.
The Caddie Academy began in 2012 with an inaugural class of 12 caddies. Each year since, it has experienced tremendous success and strong growth. The Program is a core part of the Evans Scholars Foundation’s plans for growth, with a goal of sending 1,000 caddies to college annually by the year 2020.
Participating clubs in the Academy include Conway Farms Golf Club, The Glen Club, Glen View Club, Indian Hill Club, Onwentsia Club, North Shore Country Club, Northmoor Country Club and Westmoreland Country Club.
The first Evans Scholarship participant, Katelyn Mireles, is now a sophomore at Marquette University.
In 2015, seven participants were awarded the Evans Scholarship and are freshmen this fall : Anyah Akkani: Glen View Club, awarded to Northwestern University; Biridiana Guerrero: North Shore; awarded to Purdue University; Joanna Hernandez: Indian Hill, awarded to Marquette University; Shalonda Jones: Westmoreland, awarded to Marquette University; E’lan Robinson: Westmoreland, awarded to the University of Illinois; Jasmin Roman: Indian Hill, awarded to University of Illinois; and Lesya Shenyuk: Glen View Club; awarded to Marquette University.
“Having the honor to be a part of this Program has changed my life completely,” says participant Shalonda Jones. “It has taught me how to be a leader. It has given me confidence and made me a stronger person.”
“The Caddie Academy has made me a better person,” says Lesya Shenyuk. “Through my golfers, I have learned tips on life, college and career choices. I am more responsible and better prepared for the future. My loops aren’t just a job; they are teaching me lessons in how to become a leader in golf.”
This story first appeared in the Summer 2013 WGA Evans Scholars Magazine. View the original story.
Last year, Shalonda Jones, 16, “had the best summer of my life.” She worked at Westmoreland Country Club and fell in love with the job that taught her about life in the real world and dealing with success and challenge. “Having the honor to be a part of this program has changed my life completely,” she says. “It has given me confidence and made me a stronger and better person.”
A junior in high school, Shalonda returned in 2013 for her second year in the WGA’s Caddie Academy. She loves living with a group of girls, and they often lean on each other for support. “You talk with them about how your rounds have gone,” she says. “We’re all going through the same thing. You never know what you’re going to get out there. You just gotta go out with a smile on your face.”
Through her participation in the Caddie Academy, Shalonda hopes to one day apply for the Evans Scholarship. She’s always known how important college is, and “it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t go,” she says. “How I would pay, now that was a different story.”
If she earns the Evans Scholarship one day, she can already imagine the feeling. “If I get it, wow,” she says. “I will probably cry, I won’t even lie.” As the youngest of seven children, she would be the first in her family to attend college. “I want to be a doctor. I’ve always wanted to give back and help others,” she says. “Getting the scholarship would help make my dreams come true. That’s why I’m out here every day on the golf course.”