Evans Scholarship Program provides more than just money

Branden Peterson

It’s 5:30 a.m. The summer sunrise is crawling above the horizon. A buzzing alarm screams and the exhausted high school student on summer vacation rolls out of bed. The race to the golf course is underway.

The best caddies are always on the course first, and club members notice those who are. Each one of them could be the next Evans scholar.

Having maintained a presence at the University for more than 50 years, the Evans Scholarship Program presents golf caddies with the opportunity to attend college for four years with free tuition and housing.

Charles “Chick” Evans Jr., a caddie who later became one of golf’s amateur players, founded the scholarship to provide golf caddies the financial backing needed to attend college in 1930.

The Western Golf Association, with approximately 500 golf and country clubs nationwide, manages all financial aspects of the Evans Scholarship. More than 23,000 golfers across the United States donate a minimum of $150 annually to support the program. An additional 100,000 golfers give $10-$30 annually in the WGA Bag Tag program.

Last year was tougher than normal for University Evans scholars. Planning for a future home since the mid-1990s, the former Evans scholars house was bulldozed to the ground in July 2001. Members were spread across campus, awaiting the fall of 2002 and the opening of their new residence – a $4.5 million house.

Like the rest of the current Evans scholars, President Chris Ruszkowski walks around the program’s 22,700 square-foot, three-story house, amazed at the support the group continues to receive. He said the new house fortifies a rich tradition at the University for Evans scholars yet to arrive.

“We never hit a wall, but this reinvigorated our original vision,” Ruszkowski said. “And that is to take kids from modest backgrounds and allow them to pursue what they wanted to pursue in college on an academic and an extracurricular level and come out debt free.”

But Ruszkowki said there are two sides to the scholarship.

“There’s the financial aspect where you come out debt free, and then there’s the organization end, where you’re part of the Evans family – and part of the family for life.”

The Evans family is a large one, with more than 7,600 alumni nationally. This year, 832 golf caddies are receiving scholarships, spread among 23 universities.

The process of becoming an Evans scholar begins when the club nominates an individual. Upon nomination, several requirements must be met. Grades, financial need, character, integrity and caddy experience for a minimum of two years are necessary. Scholarships are awarded in the spring of a recipient’s senior year in high school.

Like many Evans scholars, Ruszkowski said he believes golf serves as a metaphor for life: Despite a bad shot, a player must continue to grind out a result, no matter how daunting the obstacle.


Branden Peterson welcomes comments at [email protected]