Meet Gracie DeRosa.
This fall, DeRosa will be a junior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
A caddie who excelled in the classroom during her high school years, DeRosa is an Evans Scholar. For her hard work in the classroom and on the course, she’s attending college on a full scholarship.
The Evans Scholars Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Golf, Illinois, that provides full tuition and housing college scholarships to caddies. Operated by the Western Golf Association, the Evans Scholars Foundation has helped more than 10,600 caddies graduate from college since its creation in 1930.
The Scholarship’s namesake – Chick Evans – was a successful amateur golfer in the early 1900s. He won the 1910 Western Open and became the first amateur to win both the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in one year, a trick he turned in 1916.
Evans won the U.S. Amateur again in 1920 and was runner-up three times. Evans was selected to three Walker Cup teams and competed in a record 50 consecutive U.S. Amateurs in his long career.
Evans was the recipient of the Bob Jones Award in 1960, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association, in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf and he’s a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
“I really believe the Evans Scholarship is the greatest scholarship in the world because it not only covers your full tuition and housing for all four years, but it enables you to live with hardworking, intelligent and caring students (who are also all caddies) that support you every step of your college journey,” DeRosa told The Caddie Network.
DeRosa began her career as a caddie at the age of 14, looping at Park Ridge Country Club in Park Ridge, Illinois.
“Walking into a caddie shack filled with nearly all boys was intimidating,” she said. “However, the club members were quick to jump in with direction and guidance — both on and off the course. Over time, I grew to really enjoy the game and I even felt confident enough to try out for my high school golf team, where I was on varsity all four years and elected team captain for two.”
DeRosa recalled the first time she stepped foot in the caddie shack at Park Ridge.
There, she says, some of the older boys had created a list of, ahem, “helpful” rules for new caddies. That list included the following:
- Always trail behind your golfer by at least 10 yards
- At the halfway house, be sure to request from your golfer a couple Gatorades and candy bars.
- Make sure to say, ‘Nice shot!” after every hit — even the bad ones. The golfers will appreciate the moral support.
As DeRosa quickly learned, that probably wasn’t the most helpful advice. Far from it, in fact.
“I made many mistakes from blindly following that advice,” she said. “However, thanks to the guidance of the wonderful club members, I slowly became more confident in my caddie skills.
“As far as a nice shot… one day, my golfer was about 30 feet from the hole on the fringe, and I instinctively give him his putter instead of a wedge. He ended up sinking the putt. He told me after the round that he would have chipped it if I hadn’t been his caddie. It was after that moment that I began to trust my judgement.”
It was through caddying that DeRosa learned of the Evans Scholarship. With her family facing some difficult financial times, DeRosa and her older sister, Claire, were unsure if they’d be able to attend college.
Determined to get a college degree, the sisters looked into the possibility of living at home while working a full-time job to put themselves through community college. Around that time, they stumbled upon the Evans Scholarship and wanted to learn more about it.
“The Evans Scholarship seemed like it could be an answer for us,” DeRosa said. “My sister was awarded the Scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. She will graduate next year. And then I was awarded the Evans Scholarship to Marquette in 2017. When I found out, I cried, laughed and celebrated.”
For DeRosa and others like her, the Evans Scholarship expands well beyond just a financial impact.
“This Scholarship has provided me a family of 65 brothers and sisters and a life I couldn’t have imagined,” DeRosa said. “I get to live with young adults who have similar backgrounds and who understand the magnitude of the Evans Scholarship. They are among my closest friends. The Evans Scholarship has given me and my family everything — from club members who have mentored me on the course and shown me how to give back, to blessing my sister and I with a college degree from two, world-class universities. This program has given us the ability to pursue any dream we choose.”
DeRosa explained that the education hasn’t been limited to the classroom. She’s received quite the education strolling the fairways as a caddie, learning the types of things that will be invaluable as she embarks on a post-college career.
“Caddying helps you to mature faster than other people,” she said. “You learn to have conversations with adults at a young age, you learn respect and a work ethic. These lessons stick with you for the rest of your life and really make you stand out from your peers. But the biggest gift from caddying? If you work hard and don’t quit, you can earn a full scholarship to college and live with the most amazing group of people for four years.
“So never give up, and always do your best! Through the Evans Scholarship, I am doing more philanthropy than I ever had before; the scholarship is teaching me how to give back. I was also able to receive an internship with the Western Golf Association this summer, and so far, it has been a great experience. I am so thankful for all of the opportunities that the Evans Scholarship has given me.”