- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - For teenagers, a summer spent lugging golf bags around the Country Club of Terre Haute can lead to mentorships with the upper echelon of the community.

The club’s caddie program, which relaunched last spring after a years-long hiatus, helps middle and high school students build social skills and connect with adults, said Gary Behan, the club’s general manager. Behan himself caddied from seventh grade through college.

“And you really learn to watch what you say,” he said with a laugh, “because you might not have the best golfers at times.”

To which Steve Cass, another former caddie who helped bring back the program, added, “You learn a lot about people in four hours on a golf course, all the good and all the bad.”

The weeks are counting down until the young men and women return to the green, with training set to begin in March ahead of spring’s first tee times. A caddie/parent meeting is scheduled at the club next Monday to kick off this season’s program.

Caddies benefit from a fairly flexible schedule and plenty of outdoor exercise, but the most outstanding could one day earn a full ride to college.

The Evans Scholarship, named for Hoosier-born amateur golfer Chick Evans, awards full tuition and housing to high achieving caddies with limited financial means. Average value is $80,000.

About 30 scholarships are available per year for students to attend Indiana University or Purdue University, said Cass, who was an Evans scholar from IU.

Once the club’s program further establishes itself, he said Terre Haute would be able to submit candidates. Only 10 students from the state won last year.

“So we have a real compelling need to identify Indiana kids to receive those scholarships,” he said.

When Cass and his friends began carrying bags in the early 1970s, they didn’t know about the financial incentive, at first. They simply enjoyed the game - and the weekly course privileges for caddies.

Cass lost his father in high school. Club member William M. Grimes took the young golfer under his wing, and realized he needed help paying for college. Grimes, who went on to become club president, sponsored Cass’s Evans Scholarship.

After his IU days, Cass traveled the country working for Pepsi Co. He returned to Terre Haute a few years ago and, after joining the club, approached management about restarting the caddie program.

“When you receive a scholarship of that value, it’s pretty easy to want to pay it back,” Cass said.

The idea won approval from Behan - an Evans scholar from Ohio State University - as well as the club’s golf committee and club board.

Caddies were recruited through local middle and high schools, club publications and word-of-mouth. From about 20 students who were interested, five to 10 were a regular presence on the green.

The club is working with Vigo County Schools this year to recruit more teens.

One of the returning caddies is Behan’s 17-year-old son, Kevin. The Terre Haute-South Vigo High School senior, who also works year-round in the clubhouse, likes the pay and has struck up a rapport with the golfers.

“All the golfers just … support you and ask questions about how your day has been,” Kevin Behan said. “(They’re) really personable.”

A member’s guest who works with the PGA Masters Tournament mailed him an informational packet, complete with a hat and scorecard. As new caddies came on last summer, Kevin Behan helped show them the ropes.

Unlike the original program, training is better structured, Cass said. New caddies must attend two mandatory sessions in March, plus are sent out on the green with those more experienced.

“I like mentoring,” Kevin Behan said.

“He was helping the other kids out quite a bit,” Cass said.

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Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, https://bit.ly/1RokTih

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Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com


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