A program designed to help ambitious young people find academic success. That’s what former Bandon Dunes caddie Makenna Crocker found when she applied to become an Evans Scholar in 2016. She’s one of dozens of caddies at Sand Valley and Bandon Dunes who have come through the program and found the financial and social support to succeed at college and beyond.
“Without the scholarship opportunity I wouldn’t have been able to afford college,” says Crocker, who attended the University of Oregon through the Evans Scholarship program.
Operated as a not-for-profit by the Western Golf Association, more than 11,000 caddies have come through the program since 1930. Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley, and the Keiser family are passionate supporters of the program, and Dream Golf founder Mike Keiser was inducted into the Caddie Hall of Fame as recognition for his support of the program.
Annually, over 1,000 scholars attend 19 universities nationwide through the Evans Scholars Program, which awards full tuition and housing scholarships to qualifying student caddies. The program also provides the support needed to advance their academic careers and establish themselves as future leaders.
Crocker, who is working as a graduate resident advisor at the University of Oregon Evans Scholarship House as she pursues a Masters in Advertising and Brand Responsibility, spoke with Dream Golf about her experiences working as a caddie, the importance the scholarship has had on her life, and reflects on the lessons she’s learned on the course that have helped her succeed off it.
How did you get involved in the program?
My brother Matthew was an Evans Scholar and he suggested that I try caddying. To be honest, when I started I didn’t know a thing about golf. My mom dropped me off on my first day at Bandon and I don’t think she expected me to last. I had my first training round and I loved it. The scenery at Bandon is worth it in and of itself, and once I started to learn more about the game of golf I was able to meet with guests and have really great interactions.
What did the scholarship do for you?
Financially, the scholarship covered full tuition and living expenses, which allowed me to double major in African Studies and Dance. I finished undergrad debt-free, which gave me the opportunity to continue my studies at a post-graduate level. The scholarship helped me make the most of my academics. In 2018, I was able to study abroad in Ghana; without the scholarship, I would not have had this opportunity.
How did caddying influence you? What sort of lessons did you learn?
It was my first job, and because it isn’t a country club, you get to meet new people every day. What was big for me was meeting guests and getting to know people. It pushed me out of my comfort zone, I gained confidence and became a bit of a conversationalist, skills that have helped in interviews and in other professional settings. Meeting people from all over the world and from all professional backgrounds enabled me to learn so much, not just about golf but about their careers and fields of work. Everyone was so respectful. I was young, didn’t have a ton of experience, but it created a safe environment to learn about golf.
What is the community of Evans Scholars like? Is it a close knit group?
Living with the same people in the Evans Scholar House at Oregon University has been great. A lot of my best friends I’ve made have been Evans Scholars. Our house has people out of state, so it’s cool to share our stories.
What are you doing now and how has the scholarship helped you along the way?
I am going to grad school doing my Masters in Advertising and Brand Responsibility from University of Oregon, as well as working as an RA at the Evans Scholarship House, where all the Evans Scholars live. Typically there are about 40 of us or so living there, but with COVID it’s at reduced capacity. I’m also working for a software company called Palo Alto Software, where I initially interned. In fact, it was a fellow Evans Scholar who helped me find the position. Eventually, I see myself moving to a bigger city and working in advertising. The scholarship doesn’t just provide you with funding for school, it really sets you up for the rest of your professional life. You make connections that you have for life and everyone’s willing to help out one another.
Evans Scholarship – By the Numbers
$120,000 – value of an Evans Scholarship
95% – graduation rate of Evans Scholars
55 – Evans Scholars from Bandon Dunes since 1999
$25 million – annual program giving
11,232 – number of Evans Scholars alumni