by Brad Ziemer for British Columbia Golf
In caddie parlance, they are called “loops” and Angela Bowers has made more than 140 of them at Victoria (B.C.) Golf Club.
That’s a lot of walking, sometimes in the rain and wind, with a heavy bag slung over your shoulders, but Bowers never lost sight of the potential reward waiting at the end of her journey.
And now that she has officially earned that proverbial pot of gold at the end of her caddying rainbow – a prestigious Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship that will take her to the University of Washington this fall – Bowers is also proud of the fact she made a little history along the way.
The 17-year-old senior from Reynolds Secondary is the first female Evans scholar from Victoria Golf Club. The club’s first five Evans Scholarship recipients were all males.
“It makes me so proud to be the first female because I know it is such an important accomplishment,” said Bowers. “I am proud of myself, but I'm also excited about seeing other girls go through the program. It can be really intimidating at first, especially for a young girl, but maybe some other girls will see this as an opportunity. Hopefully I'll inspire and motivate them.”
Bowers didn’t need much motivation. She pretty much personifies what it means to be self-motivated. Berne Neufeld, the longtime Victoria Golf Club member who puts in long hours to run the Evans caddie program at the club, recalls being very impressed when she first met Bowers four years ago.
It was during their first meeting that Bowers told Neufeld that she was taking a Latin course on weekends. “She was thinking at the time of being a pharmacist and she thought it might be a good idea to start learning Latin,” Neufeld says with a laugh. “And she was in the eighth grade! So we knew we had a gem."
The Evans Scholars Foundation was founded in 1930 with money donated by amateur golfer Charles (Chick) Evans. The foundation has helped more than 10,000 caddies graduate from college since 1930.
These are not scholarships that go to country club kids. Applicants must come from modest means and the Evans Foundation vets candidates and their families very closely. Academic standards are extremely rigorous and applicants are also judged on their character.
Character is a word you hear a lot from Evans scholars and those hoping to become one. They get to spend countless hours walking alongside people from all walks of life. Bowers says she has learned so much over the last four years.
“The biggest thing I have learned from all the members is the importance of hard work,” Bowers says. “I met so many really successful professional people and they have travelled all over the world and worked with a lot of other successful people. They all are really hard workers and they really persevered through everything.
“I think the biggest thing they have taught me is to just stick with things, be really determined. That is exactly what I have tried to do and I think that is one of the big reasons I got the scholarship. I have set a goal for myself and stuck with it over the past four years.”
Founded in 1893, Victoria Golf Club is the oldest golf course on the west coast and is consistently ranked as one of the top courses in Canada. It has been part of the Evans caddie program for the last 12 years.
General manager Scott Kolb says the club’s members are proud to be part of the program and celebrate when one of their caddies – like Bowers – earns the big prize. “It is our official club charity,” Kolb says. “It’s the one we wrap ourselves around. In our case, there are countless charities that our members have associations with.
“This one, because it is golf-related, is a good way for us to give back. It’s not for our members, it is for those who might not be able to afford a good education otherwise, or it would have been very challenging.”
The club typically has eight to 10 teenagers in its Evans caddie program each year. Even those who don’t earn the scholarship benefit immensely from the experience. “Where else in their lives are they going to spend four or five hours with four gentlemen or women and see how they behave and react,” Kolb says.
He and Neufeld, as well as the club membership, enjoy seeing their caddies blossom into confident young men and women. “Nine out of 10 people we bring into the program have never set foot on a golf course,” Kolb says.
“So we are taking them from scratch. A lot of them when they first arrive, their social awareness of how to react in adult conversations is very different from the time they finish the program. Even the ones that don’t get the scholarship, have all got life lessons that can help them and we all know that golf can bring.”
Bowers did not know a thing about golf when she started caddying the summer after she completed Grade 8. She still does not play the game, but over the years has learned the nuances of the golf course well enough that she can help read a putt or recommend a shot.
“I was super shy when I started because I was still 13 and I wasn’t the most social person at the time, so just putting myself out there into that kind of situation was pretty intimidating,” she says. “But I quickly learned that everyone wanted to help and support me. They were happy to see a female caddy at the golf course.”
Bowers had to put in a minimum of 120 rounds to become eligible for the scholarship. She’s now up to 140 and that number will rise as she plans to return this summer and do some more caddying. “I don’t think there is any one round that really stands out for me but there was something unique about every individual involved in every round,” she says.
“I always felt there was something I could learn from all of them. There have been a lot of great times. I saw a hole-in-one on our eighth hole. I have caddied for people from all over the world who had never been to Victoria Golf Club. People of all skill levels, from all different backgrounds and careers.”
The Evans Scholarship will provide Bowers with four years of tuition and housing (valued at about $150,000 US) to the University of Washington in Seattle this fall.
Bowers, who has been swamped with congratulatory emails and texts from VGC members and friends, will live with about 25 other Evans scholars at Scholarship House, which the Evans Foundation opened last fall at the University of Washington. She plans to major in business administration.
There will be a couple of familiar faces when she moves into Scholarship House. River Bristow and Tim Peacock both caddied at the VGC and received Evans scholarships in 2016. Both attend the University of Washington.
“I am so excited,” Bowers says. “I can’t wait. It will be a great experience. I am sad about leaving home, but I'm excited to meet new people, attend university and see what it’s all about. I think it will be really rewarding and exciting.”
Tags: Angela Bowers, B.C., Berne Neufeld, Brad Ziemer, British Columbia, British Columbia Golf, Caddies, Evans Scholars, Evans Scholarship Program, Scott Kolb, University of Washington, VGC, Victoria, Victoria GC