With our coverage of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club, we thought it would be a good opportunity to highlight the generous scholarship program that exists because of the money raised by the Western Golf Association (WGA) at these events. The Evans Scholars Foundation is a highly competitive program that awards full-ride scholarships—including all tuition and housing—to deserving students who also work as golf caddies. “There are four core criteria that are evaluated by the scholarship committee,” says Jeff Harrison, vice president of education for the Western Golf Association/Evans Scholars Foundation. “A strong caddie record, excellent academics, demonstrated financial need, and outstanding character and leadership. The Evans Scholarship is a life-changing opportunity for young men and women that caddie hard, work hard in the classroom, and also need help going to college.”
“The Evans Scholarship is more than just a college scholarship, it’s completely changed my life,” says Alex Wesolowski of Lake Bluff. After four years caddying at Lake Forest’s Knollwood Club, his acceptance as an Evans Scholar has him studying economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Every caddie should apply for it. There’s no way you should give up the opportunity to meet so many great people—other Evans Scholars and the people who help you out with your tuition. Everybody I’m friends with at college is an Evans Scholar.”
The WGA sent its first two students to Northwestern University in 1930. In 1940, the first Evans Scholarship house was built on Northwestern’s campus, where Evans Scholars reside rent free. Today, there are chapters on 14 campuses across the nation, and more than 800 students attend four-year colleges on Evans Scholarships.
“Everyone says it’s like a family,” shares Collin Barnwell of Lake Bluff, referring to the atmosphere of an Evans Scholar house. Collin is entering his sophomore year at Northwestern, studying computer science on an Evans Scholarship after five years caddying at Bob-O-Link Golf Club in Highland Park. “In a fraternity, you pick who gets in and who doesn’t, but at the Evans house, everyone’s there because they all got this scholarship. Not everyone comes from the same place, but you’re all bonded together by the fact that you’re Evans Scholars. It’s a small enough house that you really get to know everyone very well.”
The process of applying for the Evans Scholarship is multi-tiered. Applicants must have caddied regularly for at least two years and have recommendations from a golf club. They’re required to take the ACT and have above a B average in college preparatory classes and a letter of recommendation from their high school. Financial need is determined by looking at a copy of the parents’ most recent federal tax return and completion of the required College Scholarship Service Financial Aid Profile. Once all of the materials are reviewed, the finalists attend a final interview in front of a large group of people comprised of members of the Evans Scholars Foundation, Evans alumni, and other program supporters for a final Q&A. “There were more than 100 golfers from different country clubs there,” says Bridgett Riverol of North Chicago. After four years of caddying at River Forest Country Club in Elmhurst, Bridgett earned her Evans Scholarship to Northwestern to pursue a degree in speech pathology. “You stand at a podium in front of 100 golfers in their green jackets, and they ask you questions about school, activities, grades, family, the things you like, and what it would mean to receive the Evans Scholarship,” she says, recalling her final interview. “It was very nerve-wracking walking in, but after I saw a couple of familiar faces, I felt comfortable.”
Getting involved in the BMW Championship this month means more than a good time on the golf course and a chance to see some of the best players take the green. It’s also a chance to help many determined young students take the next step in their educations. “There are some great supporters of the Evans Scholarship in Lake Bluff and Lake Forest,” says Jeff. “They’ve supported the program for many years, and they’ve had the opportunity to change the lives of so many deserving young men and women.”
-Jake Jarvi // Photography by Jim Prisching