During spring break in 2004, Shane Harper stood on the first tee at a private golf course, soliciting players for the chance to carry their golf clubs.
The volunteer caddie was intimidated and nervous. Nonetheless, the opportunistic 15-year-old was focused on a goal that he wouldn’t realize for two years. Now a senior at Bend High School, Harper recently was awarded an Evans Caddie Scholarship, good for at least one school year of college tuition and housing, and renewable for up to four years.
The program is administered nationally through the Western Golf Association and locally through the Pacific Northwest Golf Association and the Oregon Golf Association.
“I was ecstatic,” recalls Harper, now 17, of being chosen for the Evans award. “It felt like all the pieces fell together.
“It definitely wasn’t easy at the start because I didn’t know anyone here” at Bend Golf and Country Club, where he says he chose to caddie because he lives nearby.
For the 2006-2007 academic year, Harper was one of 23 caddies in Oregon and Washington to be selected for the award. But, it was a process he started two years ago this week — spring break.
Harper created business cards and posted fliers, and with permission from Erik Nielsen, head golf professional at Bend Golf and Country Club, he began offering his free caddie services at the course’s first tee.
“I would sit on the first tee and introduce myself,” remembers Harper. “I probably got 20 ‘nos’ for each one (caddie opportunity) that I got.”
Harper says folks were polite but would tell him that they wanted the extra exercise of carrying their clubs, or simply that they were using a golf cart and didn’t need his service.
To learn the ins and outs of caddying, Harper sought direction from an avid local golfer, Stein Swenson, and watched a how-to-caddie video. But, the youngster had also played golf himself since he was 7 years old, and had competed for four years in Central Oregon Junior Golf Association tournaments.
“As a golfer, I had an advantage because I knew a lot of the golf etiquette,” says Harper, who continues to play recreational golf. “(Over time), I got better at noticing what clubs the golfers prefer, and got better at handing them the right club before they ask for it.”
Along with carrying a player’s clubs, Harper would help a golfer find his or her ball, rake bunkers, hold the flag pin and clean clubs and balls. If asked, he would even offer a description of a hole or give advice on how to play it.
To be considered for the scholarship, candidates must caddie a minimum of 25 loops — or 18-hole rounds — per year for two years. Harper accrued 50 loops during his first spring and summer of caddying, and he notched an additional 34 loops in his second year.
After each loop, Harper would have his golfer and the head professional at the course sign a form documenting the completed round.
“Typically, most caddies will caddie at one course,” says Brice Waddell, scholarship coordinator for the PNGA. “In Shane’s case, since there was no formal caddy program in the Bend area, what was impressive about him is he went out and did it on his own. He did most of his caddying at Bend (Golf and Country Club) but let people in the area know he was available if they wanted somebody to caddy for them.”
Other golf courses in Oregon — such as Waverley Country Club in Portland — have established caddie programs, says Waddell.
“So a lot of the kids that get the Evans Scholarship in Oregon come from Waverley,” Waddell adds.
Plus, the coordinator notes, those caddies who work at courses with established caddy programs have the advantage of enjoying a paying summer job while recording their loops to be counted toward the scholarship requirements.
In fact, Waddell believes that few, if any, high school seniors from Bend have been selected for the Evans Scholarship. Crystal Kiesow earned the scholarship after caddying at Juniper Golf Club in Redmond. Kiesow was a member of the college Class of 2005 at the University of Oregon.
For Harper, more than 300 hours of volunteer caddying proved worth it in the end. A full-tuition and housing scholarship to the University of Oregon, where he plans to study architecture, is renewable for up to four years, so long as he maintains a solid grade-point average.
That shouldn’t be too much trouble for Harper, who currently holds a 3.90 GPA. Recipients of the scholarship in Oregon are required to be accepted at, and attend, either UO or Oregon State University.
Evans Scholars, however, are not required to study in a field related to golf.
Harper believes more Central Oregon high schoolers are not pursuing the Evans scholarship because of the time required to successfully qualify for it.
“I think it’s hearing that it’s such a big commitment,” says Harper, who notes he frequently earned between $5 and $20 in tips per 18-hole round. “For other kids, it (caddying) is their summer job. Here (in Central Oregon) it’s not as appealing because it’s on your own time.”
Harper caddied above and beyond the required rounds — 34 loops more than were necessary. Looking back, he says the opportunity to caddie was worth it, even had he not been selected for the award.
“I met nice people, and the experience of it was great,” he insists.
According to www.thepnga. com, the Evans Scholarship is the largest privately funded scholarship program in the United States. Currently, more than 800 golf caddies are attending college throughout the United States as Evans Scholars, and more than 7,000 have graduated since Charles “Chick” Evans Jr. founded the program in 1930.
To learn more about the Evans Caddie Scholarship program, visit www.thepnga.com.