In today’s world, experience and networking is key to opening doors both professionally and personally. Many organizations and individuals believe golf provides the platform to do both, which makes groups such as the Kids Golf Foundation and the Western Golf Association (WGA) increasingly important.
Over the past several years, the Kids Golf Foundation has increased its efforts to expose children in their golf programs and events to concepts and opportunities that could enhance their career and life. Caddie opportunities and its benefits, including scholarships, have been among the topics.
Caddying is very valuable as it allows kids to learn about the sport of golf while also developing characteristics that will help them through life. It truly is an investment for youngsters as they will have the opportunity to meet influential people, build strong communication skills, participate in a recreational activity, enhance knowledge of the sport, earn a wage, and more.
“I caddied as a teenager,” said Jerry Rich, Founder of the Kids Golf Foundation. “I truly believe that a number of the lessons and skills I learned as a caddie helped me to become the successful businessman I am today.” Rich caddied at Butterfield Country Club in Oak Brook, Illinois, where he was exposed to businessmen and women who used golf as a platform to develop relationships, conduct business, and more.
Because of Rich’s and countless other executives’ experience, the Kids Golf Foundation emphasizes the life lessons and opportunities that caddying provides through event and program offerings. For example, in 2009 the Foundation held its first Caddie Training and Information Session at Rich Harvest Farms, in which over 100 individuals attended. Mike Maher, Caddie and Scholarship Development Manager from the WGA, participated in the Foundation’s event as a guest speaker and outlined the requirements and details of the Chick Evans Scholarship, which is one of the opportunities that the Foundation highlights annually.
This year, the Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois is pleased to have their first Evans Scholar, Andrew Francesconi, of Homewood, Illinois. Andrew is currently a freshman attending Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. His involvement with Kids Golf Foundation and local program site, South Suburban Home School and Gym Group, played a critical role in his advancement with golf by providing him with an opportunity to learn the game at a young age and be introduced to the concept of caddying. “My home club, Olympia Fields Country Club, and past President, Michael Mazurczak, also played a decisive role in this scholarship coming to fruition,” said Francesconi. Through this scholarship, many different resources and opportunities have presented themselves to Andrew.
“Golf has opened up a world of opportunities for me,” said Francesconi. “I am being exposed to new learning experiences, and I have met people whom I hope will be life-long friends.” After a few short months on campus, Andrew already understands the impact this opportunity provides. The Chapter House at Purdue offers study groups, academic support, and many resources for the students. “The other Evans Scholars have provided great academic support, and we are all like one big family,” emphasized Francesconi.
The Chick Evans Foundation provides a full college scholarship that is renewable up to four years. Recipients have the opportunity to attend one of the 19 participating universities, and in some cases, live in a Chapter House. Today, there are over 860 Evans Scholars and over 9,000 alumni.
The scholarship targets caddies that have demonstrated character qualities such as integrity, character, and leadership. Academic excellence is important, as the average GPA of an Evans Scholar is 3.2.
Andrew expressed that his inspiration to do well increased after receiving the scholarship when he stated, “My heart skipped a beat when I realized I received the scholarship, and since then, it has motivated me to work even harder in school. I would be wasting the WGA’s time if I didn’t do my best.”
The Kids Golf Foundation hopes in the coming years that Andrew is the first of many recipients who are graduates of programs and events.
“The Foundation has a number of events and resources that expose our youth, administrators and families to the concept of caddying,” said Holly Alcala, Foundation Director. “It is evident through attendance at our events and the interest and use of our resources that our constituents understand the value of caddying. They are grateful when we provide information to them, and more importantly, they are willing to pass it along.”
In the coming years, the Foundation will have several opportunities to further expose youngsters to caddying. Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois, the home of the Foundation, will be hosting the WGA’s Western Amateur (2015) and Western Junior Championship (2017). Jerry Rich is also owner and architect of the course and serves as a director for the WGA. Rich, who is passionate about all things golf, sees this as an opportunity to further create awareness for both organizations and to strengthen their partnership.
The Foundation remains a junior golf resource year-round to individuals and organizations wishing to start a program in their area or get involved with our various volunteer opportunities. We encourage all program participants to learn more about caddying and how they can get involved. For more information, visit our website at www.kidsgolffoundation.org and view our video and image galleries, program information, and more.