by Kalyn Long

For a group of 43 high school girls from across the U.S., their summer jobs have them reporting to duty by 6:45 a.m. every morning ready to lug around heavy bags of golf clubs in the hot sun.

What would motivate a teenager to get a summer job like this? A chance at a full college scholarship.

From June 21- Aug. 8, the Western Golf Association’s Caddie Academy tees off each day in Evanston, Illinois, on the campus of Northwestern University. During the seven-week program, the girls caddie daily at one of several clubs on the North Shore of Chicago while living in the Northwestern Evans Scholarship House.

WGA Caddie Academy
Robyn Coleman – WGA Caddie Academy

This unique Program gives girls the opportunity of a lifetime – a chance to earn a full housing and tuition scholarship valued at $80,000 through the WGA’s Chick Evans Scholarship program.

Although nearly 900 deserving golf caddies across the country attend college each year on the Chick Evans Scholarship, the WGA launched the Caddie Academy four years ago to bring more caddying opportunities—and subsequently, full college scholarships—to young women – mostly minority – who are socioeconomically disadvantaged and geographically isolated from golf courses.

Those who successfully complete the program apply for the Evans Scholarship, a program for caddies who demonstrate financial need, strong character, outstanding caddie capabilities and academic achievement.

Meet some of the participants

Jasmin Roman is one of seven current Caddie Academy participants who recently was awarded the Evans Scholarship. The daughter of immigrant parents who wanted to provide their children with a life they were never able to have, Jasmin is the first in her family to attend college thanks to her participation in the Academy.

Shalonda Jones with golfer
Shalonda Jones with golfer

And, there is Lesya Shenyuk, whose family migrated to the U.S. from Ukraine in 2004. Despite speaking little English, Lesya’s parents had to get jobs quickly to pay for rent and food. While they work hard in their respective fields, money is still a problem for the Shenyuk family.

On top of paying Lesya’s grandmother’s medical bills, they are also struggling to afford repairs to fix flood damage to their home. In 2012, Lesya was chosen for the Caddie Academy and was later awarded the Evans Scholarship in 2015. She calls the Scholarship “a life-changing gift.”

“The Caddie Academy has made me a better person,” says Lesya. “Through my golfers, I have learned about life, college and career choices. I am more responsible and better prepared for the future. My loops aren’t just a job; they teach me lessons on how to become a leader in golf.”

More than carrying clubs

Female Evans Scholars and alumni live in the House as counselors, supervising and mentoring the group, as well as driving the girls to their clubs each day. When they are not caddying, the girls participate in numerous special activities, including attending baseball games, listening to career talks by female professionals and receiving ACT prep training from counselors and supervisors.

Recent and upcoming growth

The Caddie Academy began in 2012 with an inaugural class of 12 caddies. Each year since, the program has experienced rapid growth, increasing to 22 caddies in 2013, 35 in 2014 and 43 in 2015. The program is a core part of a long-term plan for WGA to reach a goal of sending 1,000 caddies to college annually by 2020.

Katelyn Mireles - WGA Caddie Academy
Katelyn Mireles – WGA Caddie Academy

Further information on the WGA Caddie Academy, now in its 4th year, is available on the Western Golf Association (WGA) website.

Images are courtesy of the excellent Chicago-based photographer Charles Cherney: Website.