Making an Impact

April 15, 2022
By Jack Mendesh

When asked what the Evans scholarship would mean to her, Janelle Larson, a caddie-scholar from Midland Hills CC, responded, “The Evans Scholarship would not only save my family from a huge financial burden, but it would also put me into a community of scholars that will be like a family to me.” 

Another prospective caddie-scholar, Dominic Lelemsis, of Minnesota Valley Country Club said of his volunteer experience at a nursing home, “I learned that if I show up with a smile, kind word, and a loving heart, I can make a difference in the world. Just smiling and saying 'hello' to someone can make their day.”

And, finally, Joseph McDonald, a caddie-scholar from Interlachen said about the day in Mandarin, “Today is a very special day in my life.” McDonald is fluent in Mandarin, learning the language from a very young age.

So went interviews with five scholar candidates whittled from a group of 24 Evans Scholars applicants from around Minnesota during a hybrid in-person and virtual meeting Feb. 1 with an audience of more than 100 participants including Evans alumni, donors, educators, golf club staff, Western Golf Association staff and WGA directors. While COVID-19 restrictions prevented the interviews from occurring entirely in person, the online video platform allowed participants to meet the highly accomplished young men and one woman, who were selected based on their high school academic record, leadership activities, caddie record and their family’s financial need.

The five caddie-scholars were Janelle Larson from Roseville Area H.S./Midland Hills CC, Dominic Lelemsis from Chesterton Academy/Minnesota Valley CC, Joseph McDonald from Minnetonka H.S./Interlachen CC, Bryson Schenck from Edina H.S./Hazeltine National GC, and Nicholas Wyatt from Southwest H.S./The Minikahda Club.

The scholarship applicants received news of their Evans Scholarship selection in Mid-February, joining one of the largest caddie scholarship programs in the country: more than two dozen similar selection meetings were held recently, awarding 315 scholarships to 21 colleges and universities in the fall. There are currently a record 1,070 caddies enrolled as Evans Scholars across the nation.

As a young adult, Chick Evans was forced to drop out of school due to financial reasons. After winning the 1916 U.S. Open at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Evans turned down his golf prize money and other related revenue to start the Evans Scholarship Program for young caddies. The first Evans Scholars attended Northwestern University in 1930. Five years later, the first scholar attended the University of Minnesota.

In 2030, the WGA will celebrate the 100th anniversary of that program, and they have established ambitious goals for the centennial, including increasing the number of scholars from 1,000 to 1,500; making the organization more diverse; and doubling the number of youth caddies. The Minnesota WGA volunteer directors, working in concert with local club staff, club leaders, community leaders and the team at the MGA are creating plans to strengthen local caddie programs to support those goals.

Jack Mendesh

Jack Mendesh is the MGA’s caddie development and communications manager. He grew up caddying and playing golf in the Twin Cities and likes to give back to the game that has afforded so many enriching experiences in his life.

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