9 from suburbs win Evans scholarships
Alec Heyde, a senior at Prospect High School, had plenty of reasons to celebrate on his birthday in November. That's when he learned he was one of 12 caddies in Illinois to win the Chick Evans Scholarship. Nine of the winners were from the Northwest suburbs.
The scholarship, funded for the last 85 years by members of the Western Golf Association, covers four years of housing and tuition and is valued at more than $80,000. Evans Scholars are chosen based on a strong caddie record, excellent academics, demonstrated financial need and outstanding character.
"I am very, very grateful," says Heyde, who caddies at Rolling Green Country Club in Arlington Heights and will attend Indiana University in the fall. "I don't know if college would have been possible for me without it."
Heyde has caddied at Rolling Green since the summer before eighth grade, around the same time his older brother, Blake, was preparing to attend Northwestern University as an Evans Scholar.
Consequently, striving for the Evans Scholarship was his goal from the beginning. Beyond earning high marks from Rolling Green members, Heyde is an active student at Prospect, running track and cross-country and participating in Knight's Way, a student-group that leads discussions about social responsibility.
"Getting the letter on my birthday was incredible," Heyde says. "The excitement never ends."
Another teen who has a lot to celebrate is Hannah Gillespie of Johnsburg, who earned a Chick Evans Scholarship to attend the University of Notre Dame.
"I feel incredibly blessed to receive this scholarship," says Gillespie, a senior at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock.
Gillespie followed her sister into caddying. She has worked at McHenry Country Club since seventh grade, and while she didn't know much about golf when she started, she eventually joined the golf team herself at Marian Central and proved to be a valuable caddie to club members.
"I was a little intimidated at first," Gillespie says, "but the members took me under their wing. Caddying has helped me grow in confidence and just how to talk to adults. It's been fun getting to know all the members."
Gillespie is among the third class of Evans Scholars to attend Notre Dame, and only the second class with women. Notre Dame rejoined the Evans Scholarship program in 2013 after a 50-year hiatus.
Joining Gillespie at Notre Dame will be Abbie Rice, a senior at Grayslake North High School who caddied at Ivanhoe Country Club.
She, too, followed an older sibling into caddying and she admits she was reluctant, at first, to be surrounded by so many successful club members -- and few female caddies.
"I will be the first to say I was wrong about caddying," Abigail says. "My only regret is I didn't start sooner. I loved when the golfers asked me about college, because I was very excited for my future."
Other suburban winners are:
• Daniel Arias of Highland Park, University of Illinois, Highland Park High School, Exmoor Country Club
• Alison Dobbins of Crystal Lake, Indiana University, Marian Central Catholic High School, Crystal Lake Country Club
• David Gomez of Skokie, University of Illinois, Niles North High School, Evanston Golf Club
• Lauren Klees of Antioch, Marquette University, Antioch Community High School, Twin Orchard Country Club
• Zachary Sielck of McHenry, Purdue University, McHenry East High School, McHenry Country Club
• Emily Wolf of McHenry, University of Illinois, McHenry West High School, Conway Farms Golf Club
Currently, 910 caddies are enrolled in colleges across the nation as Evans Scholars, and more than 10,000 caddies have graduated as Evans Scholars since the program was founded by famed Chicago amateur golfer Charles "Chick" Evans Jr.
Scholarship funds come mostly from contributions by 27,600 golfers across the country who are members of the WGA Par Club program. Evans Scholars alumni donate more than $8 million annually, and all proceeds from the BMW Championship are donated to the Evans Scholars Foundation.
"Based on their excellence in the classroom and their service to their schools and communities, there is little doubt that these young men and women have earned this life-changing opportunity," says John Kaczkowski, WGA president and CEO. "We welcome them to the Evans Scholars family."