by Jeff Skinner
Every week on the PGA Tour we hear how it is charities that are the big winners. The Tour will tell you that they have donated over $1 billion to more than 2,00 different charities.
This week at the BMW Championship the Evans Scholarship Program is the main beneficiary and it is one of the more historic and significant charities that benefits from the PGA Tour.
The BMW is the current iteration of the old Western Open which is one of the earliest and most prestigious tournaments in America. The Western Golf Association was started in 1899 and its Western Open (BMW) is the second oldest championship in the United States and the oldest on the PGA Tour.
The WGA administers the Evans Scholarship Program which was begun by famed amateur Chick Evans Jr. where deserving caddies were awarded full college scholarships.
Earning a full college scholarship can be a life changing event and Jeff Rude gives his first person account of just that. Rude, of Golf Week was the lucky recipient of an Evan Scholarship and was able to graduate from the University of Missouri back in 1976.
Rude recounts what it was like to earn this scholarship and the difference it made in his life and the difference it makes in the lives of many of the young caddies in the program. He says the day he found out he had earned the scholarship is one of the best days of his life.
Tom Watson had just won the first of his 39 PGA Tour victories. It came at the 1974 Western Open at the difficult Butler National Golf Club in suburban Chicago. A new Evans Scholar, I happened to be standing near the 18th green for the victory ceremony. I remember the moment as if it were yesterday because Watson’s speech brought me to tears that still return – every time, never fail – when I recount the story, even now almost four decades later.
Watson told the crowd that his local caddie that week, Bobby Maibusch, was applying for the Evans Scholarship and had asked if Watson would write him a letter of recommendation. The young touring professional then said he would do one better. He turned to Chick Evans, the program founder who was seated in a chair by the green, and advised that Maibusch receive a scholarship.
That scene hit the heart because I knew what it meant. I had just received one several months earlier, on reapplication after being turned down initially while in high school. So I knew the anticipation, hope, value, joy and life-changing aspects involved with being selected. It follows that, just today here at the BMW Championship, I broke down three times in front of a television camera when retelling that tale and talking about the Evans Scholarship.
Maibusch would receive one, matriculate to Michigan State and today is the superintendent at Hinsdale (Ill.) Golf Club. Watson would go on to win eight major championships and become a shoo-in for the World Golf Hall of Fame. I would go on to carve out a living telling golf stories like this one, though any tale involving the Evans program tends to evoke more emotion at the word processor because of the deep personal bond.
Over 10,000 caddies have been awarded Evans Scholarships. Sometimes the babble about the charities is just background noise during PGA Tour telecasts but Rude’s piece puts a face to it.