Glenview, Ill. – August 16, 2019 – PGA Teaching Professional David Hannon has been teaching golf for more than 25 years to golfers young and old of all skill levels but his work during the past two summers with the Western Golf Association (WGA) Caddie Academy students could be the most important of his career.
Originally started as a girls only program in 2012, the WGA Caddie Academy was founded on the principal that there is a common barrier for young people from underserved communities becoming caddies and that is geography limits their access to youth caddie programs and country clubs. Following its success with the girls program, the WGA decided to extend its mission and start the WGA Caddie Academy for boys in 2017.
“By connecting these kids with instructors in Chicago, we are able to engage with them at a very basic level to try and teach them how to hold a club, how to create contact with the golf ball and get the golf ball to try and go in a direction they want it go,” said Hannon. “The program is designed to show these kids that there are opportunities in life through golf.”
The program provides summer caddie opportunities to under-resourced high school students who ultimately hope to pursue an Evans Scholarship. Through the Caddie Academy, students have the chance to earn money, meet role models and learn valuable life lessons on the golf course.
A key part to the application process is the location of which the applicants reside. The Caddie Academy puts an emphasis on finding kids that have the most trouble getting to and from the golf course each day and may not have access to a youth caddie program in their area.
“We try to target the kids that don’t necessarily have the means to get to the course each day,” said Sam Maciejewski, Manager of Education and Caddie Academies for the WGA and a former Evans Scholar at Ohio State University. “An hour commute by train to and from the course, or people that can’t get to the course on a daily basis are some factors that weigh in on the geography side.”
In its third summer, the Caddie Academy for boys has grown to 18 participates from four different states. Half the boys that made up the 2019 summer class were from the Chicagoland area, while the other half came from Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York. The program also featured five current and former Evan Scholars that served as counselors.
“This summer has been such a fun and reinvigorating summer,” said counselor Isaiah Truong, a former Evans Scholar at University of Oregon. “I lived in Oregon my entire life, so to be in Chicago, particularly in Evanston, has been a nice change of pace.”
The Caddie Academy is more than just finding a caddying job for the summer. The program puts the high schoolers in real life situations and provides guidance to prepare them for college.
A typical day for a member of the boys Caddie Academy will start around 6:00 a.m. A counselor will drive the participants to their respective clubs in the WGA van and drop them off at the caddie area. Following a day of at least one loop, participants will return to the Northwestern Evans Scholar house. After dinner, they will partake in a number of additional events such as golf lessons, campus tours, special field trips, test prep courses and more.
“I got involved in the program last year through the Daniel Murphy Scholarship,” said Charles Mitchell. “My favorite part about the program is living with different people and meeting new people from different places in the United States. It gives you the chance to learn about different cultures.”
Group golf lessons were at the forefront of this summer’s program. Hannon conducted lessons for all 18 boys every Tuesday at Evanston Golf Club.
“It’s been very rewarding to team up with the WGA and be part of this program teaching and introducing the boys to this great game,” said Hannon. “As a PGA Professional I know firsthand there are many different ways to be involved in the business and game. It’s truly a sport for life.”
Not only has this program seen success in the growth in numbers from the past two years, but the kids involved in the program are finding a real passion for the game of golf.
“My interest in golf has grown since starting the Academy,” said Louis Soto, a Daniel Murphy Scholar from the Latin School of Chicago. “I decided that I’m going to play golf this year for my high school team. I feel like caddying and being a part of this program really peaked my interest and got me into golf more.”
The Caddie Academy golf lessons were designed for kids of all levels. Although many of the kids were just getting into the game of golf, there were a select few that had experienced the game in the past. The program served these kids in the same way.
“Through the program and weekly lessons, I have definitely improved my swing with the driver,” said Mitchell, who is also trying out for his high school golf team this fall. “I couldn’t get the ball of the tee at the beginning of the program and now I hit It like 230 yards.”
Like the game, the lessons learned at the Caddie Academy go beyond the game itself. The 18 students worked across four golf facilities, lived away from their families for seven weeks and managed a weekly agenda that included long days at work and studying starting early in the morning.
“I think the hard work is making them hungry,” said Truong. “I think they are very motivated to finish this program. These are some really talented, terrific kids that are excellent caddies and work really hard, and they are out here to try and earn the Evans Scholarship.”
Scholarship or not, the Caddie Academy is preparing its students for the next stage of their lives. While the Evans Scholarship is the ultimate goal – in fact, five boys from the first program in 2017 are applying for the scholarship this fall – the lessons learned during the seven-week program will stick with these kids for the rest of their lives.
“This program changes a lot about you,” said Mitchell. “It opens you up to different experiences and gets you out there to prepare for college. It prepares you to be ready to leave home and leave your parents when it comes time for college. I think this program has prepared me for what’s next.”
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About the Illinois PGA/Illinois PGA Foundation
The Illinois Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in northern and central Illinois who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Illinois PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With over 840 members and apprentices, the Illinois PGA is one of the 41 regional Sections that comprise the PGA of America. The Illinois PGA Foundation focuses its community efforts on promoting the goodwill and growth of the game with an emphasis on activities that benefit youth. Foundation initiatives include: GolfWorks Illinois, Youth-based Scholarship Funds and the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. For more information about the Illinois PGA and the Illinois PGA Foundation, please visit www.www.ipga.com and join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
About Western Golf Association
The Western Golf Association conducts six national golf championships and sponsors the nationally acclaimed Evans Scholars Foundation. Headquartered in Golf, Illinois, the organization was founded in 1899 by 11 Chicago-area golf clubs to promote their interests in golf. In addition to the BMW Championship, the WGA conducts four prestigious amateur championships, the Western Amateur, the Western Junior, and the Women’s Western Golf Association’s Amateur and Junior championships. Starting in 2019, the WGA also is conducting the Evans Scholars Invitational on the Korn Ferry Tour. To learn more, visit www.wgaesf.org.
About Evans Scholars Foundation
The WGA champions education through golf by sponsoring the Evans Scholars Program, the sole charitable beneficiary of the BMW Championship. Established by famed amateur golfer Charles “Chick” Evans, Jr., the program provides full housing and tuition scholarships to deserving caddies across the country. This fall, 1,000 caddies will be attending 18 leading universities on Evans Scholarships. The Evans Scholars Program is funded by contributions from more than 32,500 donors across the country, including many Evans Alumni, and by proceeds from the BMW Championship.
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Illinois PGA Communications
Western Golf Association