San Francisco high school student Riley McCall didn’t know a nine iron from a putter. A fairway from a rough. And he certainly had no idea his summer job schlepping a golf bag around a golf course would be his golden ticket to college.
But at the end of August, the fledgling golf caddy will turn in his clubs and head for the University of Washington — all thanks to a unique scholarship that sends thousands of young caddies onto higher education.
“I never really knew caddying was any part of my life,” said McCall, standing on the green of the exclusive Olympic Club Golf Course where he’s worked the last three summers.
McCall hadn’t even watched golf on TV when he sought summer employment early in his high school days at the Enterprise for Youth Program. The program steered him toward a summer gig caddying at the Olympic Club. He quickly learned caddying involved more than just lugging around golf bags.
“Knowing where to stand, and giving advice to your golfer,” McCall said ticking off his adopted skills. “I think one of the skills of being a caddy is be able to have a conversation with your golfer.”
Often, those conversations would occur early in the morning with McCall rising before dawn to get to the course early in order to get more jobs.
“Whoever gets here first gets the first round,” McCall said, “so I would come here at 5:30 or six — pretty early.”
The Gateway High School student dreamed of go to a four-year college but his family lacked the funds to make that happen. But somehow, the golf ball of his life dropped onto the green and headed for the cup.
His work caught the attention of the Evans Scholarship, which was founded in1930 by amateur golfer Charles “Chick” Evans along with the Western Golf Association to send caddies on to college. The scholarship has sent more than ten-thousand men and women of modest means to universities.
Suddenly McCall’s bleak college prospects went from the sand trap to the green as the program awarded him a full-ride scholarship to the University of Washington, worth about $120,000. Those early morning call times began to look a lot more sunny.
“It paid off with the scholarship and that was one of my main motivations to get up so early,” McCall said, “and I think I’ve helped my future because of it.”
Organizers of the Illinois-based scholarship believe caddying is a job that imparts skills beyond hauling a bag or handing over clubs. The caddies at the Olympic Club spend a lot of time with titans of business, getting the chance to pose questions and make important connections.
“People come from all around the world to play this golf course,” said Bill Moses of the Evans Foundation, “so really, you have a new boss each day.”
Though basketball is McCall’s sport of choice, he said he’s embraced the finer points of the game, the conversations with golfers, the encounters with new people each day.
But after three summers at the club,McCall’s course will veer from golf to college, trading in his caddy smock for a backpack. Even though he’s enjoyed the experience, he isn’t sure whether his path will ever lead back to golf. At least now he knows an iron from a wedge.
This post was originally posted at http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/San-Francisco-High-School-Student-Caddies-His-Way-to-College-513257321.html.