Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally appeared for the South Bend Tribune on Mar. 5, 2017.
In the sports comedy film classic “Caddyshack,” Danny Noonan loses his chance at a full scholarship by sinking a putt on the 18th green to defeat Judge Smails, the scholarship’s sponsor, as the course literally blows up around them.
Zach Stewart, a South Bend Riley senior and South Bend Country Club caddy, said his best “Caddyshack”-esque experience was slightly less explosive.
“I hooked it straight into the lake,” the elder Stewart said, laughing.
In the end though, Stewart landed Noonan’s dream: a scholarship for the full cost of four years’ tuition and room and board at Purdue University, valued at more than $100,000, to study computer and engineering technology.
Although he comes from a golfing family, Stewart had an on-again, off-again relationship with the sport until two summers ago, when his mother suggested he take a job caddying “just to make a little bit of extra money.”
It turns out the job was worth a lot of “extra money.” Stewart learned about the Evans Scholarship at the end of an informational meeting, and he said “that became my goal.”
It paid off: Stewart is one of 14 Indiana award recipients of the Western Golf Association’s Chick Evans Scholarship this year.
Since the scholarship’s creation in 1930 by amateur golfer Charles “Chick” Evans Jr., “more than 10,400 caddies nationwide have graduated as Evans Scholars,” funded by members and proceeds from the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship.
Scholars are chosen on four criteria: a strong caddie record, academics, demonstrated financial need and outstanding character.
Stewart’s resume checks those boxes: He’s played double bass in orchestra for four years, served on the Mayor’s Office’s South Bend Youth Taskforce and the South Bend Office of Sustainability’s Green Ribbon Commission, co-founded Riley’s engineering ambassador program and is designing a sun-tracking shade for car windshields as his senior project.
He even joined the Riley golf team his junior year.
For the last two summers though, Stewart and a half dozen or so other caddies showed up on weekend mornings to accompany members on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“I’m just there to hand them the club or rake the sand, whatever they need,” Stewart said of his caddy style. “I’m not good enough at reading greens anyway, so I let them do that.
Stewart was selected as an Evans Scholar after what he termed a “very complex process” that culminated in interviews Feb. 1 at Long Beach Country Club.
“They ask you all sorts of out-there questions,” Stewart said. “Like, I got asked a question about beekeeping.”
A beekeeping caddy?
“My grandpa’s a beekeeper,” Stewart explained. “I put it down as a hobby that has nothing to do with academics, but they asked me about beekeeping of all things. There was one gentleman in the audience who was a beekeeper himself.”
Like all good caddies, Evans Scholar Zach Stewart was prepared for anything.