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The Founder of Baron Jay Foundation earned his college scholarship to Michigan State University from the Western Golf Association.

The Western Golf Association’s Caddie Academy has completed its fifth summer, providing a group of nearly 80 high school girls from across the country the opportunity to caddie at local clubs along Chicago’s North Shore.

The Program ran for seven weeks, ending in early August, with the girls caddying daily at one of 12 participating clubs while living at a new location, the Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest, Illinois.

This unique program, which nearly doubled in size from 2015, offers its participants a chance to experience the benefits of being a golf caddie. Those who complete the Program are eligible to apply for the Evans Scholarship. To date, 17 girls have received the Evans Scholarship.

This year, more than 100 freshmen girls nationwide applied to participate. Of that group, 43 new participants were invited to take part. This summer’s Program included girls from Arkansas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

Those who complete the program are eligible to apply for the Evans Scholarship, which provides a full, four-year tuition and housing grant to top universities across the country. The prestigious Evans Scholarship, a program supported by the WGA, is awarded to caddies who demonstrate financial need and strong character, as well as outstanding caddie and academic records. This fall, 935 Evans Scholars will be enrolled at 20 universities across the nation.

Participants come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, with more than 90 percent being minorities.

Female Evans Scholars also live in the dorms, serving as counselors to supervise the group and drive the girls to their clubs.

As part of the Program, special activities are planned,including field trips to a baseball game and the Chicago Botanic Gardens, career talks from successful women and standardized test training.

“The Caddie Academy provides a special, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for hard-working young women to be introduced to caddying and the sport of golf,” says the WGA’s Mike Maher, who helps oversee the Program. “Their ultimate reward is a chance to earn a full scholarship to college.”

The Caddie Academy is fully funded by a private donor. In 2013, WGA Director Fritz Souder and his family committed to fund the program. Proceeds from the annual Women’s Invitational golf fundraiser also benefit the Academy.

In 2015, 52 girls from across the country applied to participate in the Program. Of that group, 17 new participants were invited to take part, joining the 27 other girls already caddying from previous years. This summer’s group include young women from Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and Little Rock, Arkansas. Ninety percent are minorities.

The Caddie Academy began in 2012 with an inaugural class of 12 caddies. Each year since, it has experienced tremendous success and strong growth. The Program is a core part of the Evans Scholars Foundation’s plans for growth, with a goal of sending 1,000 caddies to college annually by the year 2020.

The first Evans Scholarship participant, Katelyn Mireles, is now a junior at Marquette University.

In 2015, seven participants were awarded the Evans Scholarship and are freshmen this fall : Anyah Akkani: Glen View Club, awarded to Northwestern University; Biridiana Guerrero: North Shore; awarded to Purdue University; Joanna Hernandez: Indian Hill, awarded to Marquette University; Shalonda Jones: Westmoreland, awarded to Marquette University; E’lan Robinson: Westmoreland, awarded to the University of Illinois; Jasmin Roman: Indian Hill, awarded to University of Illinois; and Lesya Shenyuk: Glen View Club; awarded to Marquette University.
“Having the honor to be a part of this Program has changed my life completely,” says participant Shalonda Jones. “It has taught me how to be a leader. It has given me confidence and made me a stronger person.”

“The Caddie Academy has made me a better person,” says Lesya Shenyuk. “Through my golfers, I have learned tips on life, college and career choices. I am more responsible and better prepared for the future. My loops aren’t just a job; they are teaching me lessons in how to become a leader in golf.”