Like any other teenager taking a summer job, Connor Donovan figured he would help pay some college bills when he began caddying as a 14-year-old at North Shore Country Club. He certainly never thought it would lead to this.
Caddying is paying all of his college bills. The Kellenberg High School senior from Glen Cove has a full four-year ride to Northwestern as the first Long Islander to win a Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship -- an award begun in 1930 by Evans, the first player to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open in the same year.
Donovan, the third of four brothers to carry bags, read putts, polished clubs and raked bunkers at the private club in Glen Head, earned the honor with his grades, his application and, mostly, his work habits at the course. North Shore caddie master Mike Butler quickly nicknamed him "Machine" because of all he did during a shift.
"We work pretty hard out there and you can see a kid's character, just in the way they handle themselves and in the way that they work," Butler said. "He just stood out."
The young man was working this past week, days before his Sunday graduation, and will be on the job all summer. "I enjoy the game of golf, it's nice to be around that," the future mechanical engineering major said at North Shore on Monday. "You can't really beat the hours, it's mostly on the weekends and in the mornings."
What will make this summer different is that he and his parents, Noreen and Kevin, will not have to sweat tuition bills. "It is such a relief," he said. "I don't have to worry about loans or a dorm room or anything like that."
He will live with 40 fellow Evans scholars in a house set up just for them by the Western Golf Association. "It's a really nice house. They just redid it a couple years ago," he said, having attended a meeting there last Saturday.
A year ago, he did not know the Chick Evans Scholarship existed. Donovan would have been thrilled to receive a partial Long Island Caddie Scholarship, as did his older brothers Matthew (on his way to medical school at the University of Miami) and Kevin (a senior-to-be at Xavier). Their younger brother, Sean, will be a junior at Kellenberg.
Stephen Smith, head of the Long Island Golf Association, told both Noreen and Butler that the Evans group was looking for recipients beyond the Midwest.
"Anybody who could help, did," Donovan said.
Still, he was on his own this past March, in a Manhattan interview with 25 former Evans scholars. "In the week leading up to it, I was getting a little worried. My mom and my dad were trying to prepare me for it," he said. "A couple of days before it, I had a meeting with one of my school teachers. She was able to calm me down so I wouldn't be freaking out."
He aced the interview. Who could have imagined a 15 handicapper getting a full ride for golf? Maybe he will be on his way to a huge career, and possibly a membership at North Shore.
"What this did," Butler said, "was it taught the kids around him that the game of golf, working at a club, has its life-changing moments. And he just caught the express train."