Abbey Sisler is a 2022 Evans Scholarship recipient set to begin a full round at the University of Maryland this week. The program that sends caddies to college was started by Chick Evans Jr., the first golfer to win both the US Amateur and the US Open in the same year with help from the Western Golf Association.
The scholarship has more than 11,800 alumni, a list that includes former CEOs of Deere & Company
Sisler was far from the double-break reading guru she is today when she started caddying three summers ago, but she was motivated and determined to hone her skills from day one. Her father and older brother, also an Evans Scholar, had worked as caddies at Friar’s Head on Long Island, but that didn’t mean she acquired her golf knowledge by osmosis.
When she first set foot on the turf at Sebonack, a luxury private club in the Hamptons, Sisler had an idea of the basic layout of a golf course. She had the broad strokes at her fingertips, knowing the difference between fairways, roughs, greens and bunkers, but that was the extent of her knowledge of the course. As for the gameplay itself, the learning curve was even steeper.
“My very first loop was definitely something I didn’t expect. I thought I’d just carry the golf bag until someone asked me if I knew what a ‘par’ was,” recalls Sisler.
“I said no thinking it was nothing major, until I saw the weirdest looks on everyone’s faces. I realized I needed to step up and to learn about golf and from there it motivated me to want to caddy and get out on the course,” she adds.
Sisler caddyed five days a week, arriving on the course at 7 a.m. sharp, Wednesday through Sunday. She would sometimes sit in the Caddyshack for over six hours before having a curl. Receiving the Evans Scholarship has taught her that hard work can pay off and she is very grateful for all the support she has received.
“I would recommend anyone to get into the caddy. You don’t need to know golf as long as you get into it. The Evans Scholars Foundation offers junior caddy programs across the United States. There are so many opportunities for young caddies,” says Sisler.
She will study special education following in the footsteps of her mother and two grandmothers who all worked in the field. She chose the University of Maryland, a new Evans Scholarship partner, to help shine a light on the scholarship outside of the Midwest where it began and still has its largest presence.
“I absolutely wanted to make the East Coast aware of this scholarship. There are 90 shopping carts [to win it] on the east coast about 50 sponsor clubs and I want to help people recognize the opportunity they have here,” says Sisler.
As her caddy skills increased with each loop around Sebonack and its sweeping vistas of Great Peconic Bay, Sisler also eventually took the game and she made her high school team.
“I haven’t really had the opportunity to play a lot of golf this summer, but when I did, there are a lot of skills that I unconsciously learned from being a caddy on the golf course,” said Sisler.
“As a caddy, you watch everyone play. You watch their stance, how they putt and how they hit each club and take notes for yourself in your head. Just looking at golfers’ muscle memory can be reflected in your own game,” adds Sisler.
For this school year, 1,100 Evans Scholars are attending 22 universities and they are heading towards their goal of reaching 1,500 in school each year by 2030.
“By 2030, we’re on track to bring one new college online per year to accommodate all the scholars we take on as we grow,” said Ed Brockner, vice president of college development. east region of the Evans Scholars Foundation, says.
“We are very careful and selective about who we want to work with. It’s a year long process to go from concept to launch and we are really excited about the schools we have and as we grow we will continue to look for schools that fit the same profile as the ones we have already,” he added.
Over the past four years, the number of applicants from the East Coast has more than doubled and they have invested over $2 million to expand the youth cadet programs in the region. Brockner also credits the BMW Championship, the charity’s biggest booster, with increasing awareness of the East Coast. The past two editions of the penultimate FedEx Cup playoff event, including last weekend’s tournament in Wilmington, Delaware, have been contested on the East Coast, as has the 2018 edition.
“When we came to Aronimink, Pennsylvania a few years ago, it was a very intentional decision by the Western Golf Association and the Evans Scholars Foundation to partner with groups like the Golf Association of Philadelphia and the J. Wood Platt Caddy Scholarship Trust and put our flag in the ground in the East,” says Brockner.
Along with Maryland, Penn State and Rutgers are the other most recent schools to board the Evans train. The scholarship’s newest program, ‘Caddie Scholar Prep’, was launched this year to recruit, train and mentor students who meet the required academic and need-based criteria and provide them with the opportunity to win an Evans Scholarship.