Lou Pasquesi had been a teenager in limbo when the letter containing his final status as a Chick Evans Scholarship applicant arrived in the family mailbox in 1986.
“The envelope was thick — a good sign,” the Highland Park native and former Northmoor Country Club caddie recalls.
Months earlier, right around the start of the second semester in his senior year at Highland Park High School, Pasquesi was a “deferred” applicant. The message: focus more on acing the courses with the exams and the papers than on the courses with the fairways and flagsticks.
“I had to produce in the classroom in order to get that college scholarship,” Pasquesi says.
Four A’s and a pair of B’s adorned his final report card at HPHS. It marked a personal-best semester for the boy who grew up in a household of nine — parents Evo and Pia, four siblings and a set of grandparents.
Pasquesi opened the thick envelope on that day in June and read the super news. As an Evans Scholar, he earned a full tuition and housing college scholarship. Since 1930, more than 10,000 male and female caddies have been awarded such a scholarship to top universities in the nation.
“I remember sitting in our living room and seeing my father, overcome with emotion, as he walked upstairs with that letter in his hand,” says the 49-year-old Pasquesi, an Indiana University graduate and an insurance broker specializing in employee benefits at the VITI companies in Highwood. “He was happy and proud. My parents [Evo was a carpenter; Pia was seamstress] were pretty quiet. They communicated best through their incredible work ethic and devotion to family.”
The five Pasquesi children — Frank, Lou, Mark and twins Joe and Caroline — honored their parents last month by establishing an endowed Evans Foundation Scholarship in their names. Evo, 80, and Pia attended the announcement of the scholarship’s inaugural recipient at Northmoor CC in Highland Park on July 14.
“Frank did such a great job spearheading the scholarship,” Lou Pasquesi says. “We felt strongly about recognizing our parents in a special way, and we’re excited we were able to do that in conjunction with the Evans Scholars Foundation.”
Each of the four Pasquesi boys attended college on a four-year Evans Scholarship.
All proceeds from next month’s BMW Championship, featuring the top 70 professional male players in the world at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest (Sept. 14-17), benefit the Evans Scholars Foundation.
Pasquesi became a caddie at a young age because his older brother, Frank, was one. Lou Pasquesi made exactly $9.50 on his first loop (round of golf).
“Caddying was intimidating at first,” admits Pasquesi, after ordering coffee, two scrambled eggs, bacon, rye toast and a plate of tomato slices at Country Kitchen in his hometown of Highland Park. “I was kind of a shy kid, and carrying golf bags for CEOs and presidents of companies pushed me out of my comfort zone. And some of the caddies in the caddie shack, the 16- to 18-year-olds … they were full-grown men to me. But I learned a lot, including how to read the personalities of my golfers. As a caddie, you have to be respectful at all times, a coach on the course, in charge of yardage, an expert on the golf course and, at times, a therapist.
“Caddying,” he adds, “is all about knowing when to talk and when not to talk.”
Pasquesi gawked more than a few times, as a 16-year-old caddie for professional golfer Rex Caldwell, at the Western Open at Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook in the mid-1908s. The Western Golf Association was connected with the PGA Tour event then and provided the caddies for most of the golfers.
Caldwell had finished in third place at the PGA Championship in 1979.
“What an experience that was, being inside the ropes with great players like Tom Watson, Tom Kite and Greg Norman,” says Pasquesi, who could pass for actor Jeff Goldblum’s baby brother and for soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo’s older brother. “Rex Caldwell was intense, fiery. I was super excited about working for him. I remember thinking, during time with him at the driving range, ‘Wow, this guy is a character.’ Well, he missed the cut, and for two days of work I got a crumpled check for $150.”
The Indiana University graduate with a degree in public affairs has been working for the VITI companies for 25 years. His wife of 20 years, Thornton native and Valparaiso University graduate Joan, has been an RN at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago for 27 years. They have three children: Olivia, 17; Daniel, 15; and Michael, 11.
A staircase — this one many miles away from the one in Evo Pasquesi’s house on Bloom Street in Highland Park — was a part of another pivotal moment in Lou Pasquesi’s life.
“I was at the Hangge-Uppe [a bi-level bar in Chicago] after college, walking down some stairs, when I first noticed Joan,” Pasquesi says. “There she was, with big hair and a big smile, an amazing smile. Electric.”
The husband and wife enjoy taking long walks together along the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve in Highland Park. Lou stays fit, in part, by playing basketball games at the Highwood Rec Center twice a week, beginning at 6 a.m. He reads business books at night and, as a lector, scripture on Sundays at St. James Catholic Church in Highwood.
“I appreciate the little things in life now more than ever,” says Pasquesi, who still loves to golf and survives most rounds by scrambling with the best of them. “Little things like walking the dog with my wife, playing catch with my sons, eating sushi with my daughter. I’m grateful for every moment I get to spend with my kids.
“I’m not the perfect dad; I criticize my kids at times, and I can be picky. But I’m also a hugger. I like to kiss them all the time and tell them I love them.”
The Pasquesi clan — Evo and Pia, plus their five children, their children’s spouses and their 16 grandchildren — flew to Italy for the start of a two-week vacation on Aug. 4. The family visited Tuscany first, before traveling to Pievepelago, a municipality in the heart of the northern Apennine Mountains.
“The trip will be a big deal, a fantastic experience,” says Pasquesi, starting the “back nine” of his breakfast with me on a July morning. “We’re all thrilled about spending time together, especially with our parents. They’ve had such a huge influence on all of us.
“I’m always about representing the family, about doing things that would make my parents proud. No matter what I do, no matter where I do it, I do it with my family in mind.”