Caddy Scholarship Grows from BMW Championships
When Vince Pellegrino, the Senior Vice President of Tournaments at Western Golf Association, was a caddy, “It was a keep up and shut up mantra.” It seems fitting then that Pellegrino, the WGA, and the Evans Scholars program all found their way together to shape a perfectly symbiotic partnership that culminates at Crooked Stick Golf Club next month during the 2016 BMW Championships. You see, the Evans Scholarship program is the sole benefactor of monies raised for this Championship, which can add up to over $3 million dollars to its coffers.
By keeping up and shutting up at the course, Pellegrino used his caddying exploits with the members of the famed private Riverside Golf Club not only for a summer job but to further his opportunity to receive a college scholarship and then to finally, years later, parlay that into a full-time job.
Riverside, located squarely in the Chicago suburb of that name, is one of the oldest existing golf courses in the U.S. (est. 1893) and the founding home of the Western Golf Association, which sponsors the Evans Scholarship program. The scholarship is named for renowned 1920s golfer and initial donor Chick Evans Jr, and, on certain college campuses, winners live together in communal housing.
Acting upon advice from the family dentist and at the insistence of his mother, Pellegrino took a job caddying at the course when he was 12, and along the way found a place where he felt good. “For me, I was there to have a job. My parents were more into the scholarship side,” he said. “I have three sisters. It was an opportunity for me to get out of the house so I embraced it (the job) and felt welcomed (by his co-working caddy cohorts).”
After meeting the qualifications needed to apply, Pellegrino won the scholarship prior to graduation from Fenwick High School in Oak Park, IL, and later attended Indiana University where he majored in Sports Marketing. “The cornerstone of the scholarship house is learning. It’s like a frat where you have 50-100 caddies living together. You have freshmen living with juniors so I had an immediate support system with the other scholars.”
Since 1930, the scholarship has covered over 10,100 college graduates. Today, there are 910 Evans scholars enrolled in 19 universities. Indiana and Purdue have houses on campus, as do 12 other schools nationwide. Between Purdue, IU, and Notre Dame, there are 1,050 alumni in Indiana.
A current agenda for the WGA is to expand their ability to house more recipients. According to David Robinson, Chairman of the WGA, the organization is focusing in the Pacific Northwest. “We have a plan,” said the Troy, MI resident. “We are looking West—four or five houses in four or five years,” he said of the expansion. The other side of that expansion will come in scholarships awarded. “We want 1,000 kids by 2020. That’s aggressive.”
Michaela O’Shaughnessey, a recent graduate from Purdue, is a benefactor of a scholarship. A native of Fort Wayne, she and her four siblings were all scholarship winners. Her story is much like that of Pellegrino’s from years before. She began caddying at the age of 12 at Orchard Ridge Country Club. With five kids in the house, all girls, money was tight. Her father worked from home. Her mother worked evenings at a diner and home-schooled her kids until high school, when Michaela, like her sisters, attended Bishop Leurs.
“Caddying (as a youth) provided my sisters and me with a great network of successful adults in our community and allowed us to find support in the many caring members,” said O’Shaughnessey. “It allowed us to build great communication skills.”
And, just like Pellegrino and countless other Evans Scholars, O’Shaughnessey loves the experience the Evans Scholar House provided. “Because my housemates and family inspired me to keep up my academic excellence in college, I was able to achieve a 4.0 academic GPA four out of my eight semesters at Purdue.”
In a sport where the low score rules, Pellegrino and the Evans Scholars program are hoping for big numbers at the BMW Championships so corporate monies and big crowds can make even more deserving student-caddies winners.