Chick Evans – College for Caddies

Early Legend Chick Evans Left Enormous Legacy

I had to think a little, but yes, I remember the name of Chick Evans, or more properly I should say Charles E. “Chick” Evans. However, the reason I remembered it is that I have a memory of seeing the name on the head of a driver as a kid.

I guess that makes sense. I gather that he was one pretty memorable golfer, but we have to remind ourselves that he played in the day of the amateur. For Evans, that would be between the 1910s and 1920s. To become a professional golfer was rather an exceptional case. For golfers, as in other sports, the admonition was “You’d better stop fooling around with this and get a real job.”

Chick Evans developed into such a good player that he split the difference, winning the 1910 Western Open. That was around the time just after Kitty Hawk and early aviation. Bobby Jones hadn’t ascended to his legendary status yet, and Britain more or less ruled the game, Francis Quimet aside. Then, Evans proceeded to win the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open in the same year of 1916. That was halfway through the First World War. He won the Amateur again in 1920, seven years before Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic, so we are talking quite a few years ago.

By the end of his career, Evans participated in 50 consecutive U.S. Amateurs. And what did he carry in his bag? It was fairly light, that is for sure – seven clubs with hickory shafts. He can be found in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and was an early winner of the Bobby Jones Award. People, lots of people, still buy his golf instruction book, and back then, he went the extra nine yards by putting the lessons on recording for Brunswick Records. That was during the day when the label was introducing some of the next era’s most famous musicians.

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Then came the dilemma.  The “way of the amateur,” as it is termed in Chariots of Fire was the noble way, competition based on the honorable, clean life, not entangled with dreams of wealth from competition. If Evans wanted to preserve his amateur status, he could not accept any prize money from the U.S. Open or the Western Open. Added to that, the royalties garnered from the Brunswick lesson recordings was pretty hefty. What was he going to do with that?

Chick Evans was an Indianapolis boy who grew up on the north side of Chicago. He knew about caddying and caddies. Every sort of kid imaginable worked as a caddie, but very few of them were sons of rich men. They performed as the servant class, beast of burdens, in return for getting on to the golf course at all. Few made any money worth mentioning, and as prisoners of low economy lives, didn’t have much of a chance for advancement. There may have been exceptions, but they were without a doubt exceptions.

On the advice of his mother, and the support of a few golf organizations, Chick Evans established a foundation for qualified caddies, not one to just keep them alive, but to experience college. The college scholarships sent these former bag handlers into undergraduate and graduate degrees, with the nest egg growing so fast that the foundation thrives over a century later. A college education was a priceless gift at the time, and far more expensive than most could afford.

The caddie scholarships Evans produced were not token add-ons to whittle away at tuition. They paid for everything, in class and out. In 2014, a new chapter house was established at the University of Oregon, and young caddies are still getting surprised with these awards, thousands of them.

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Like so many of the great golfers since, Chick Evans didn’t let his golf alone define his legacy. He made the advancement of an entire group of people who supported the golf world for the love of the game his ongoing legacy. A host of grateful graduates won’t soon forget it.

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