Just spending a summer in the caddie yard is an education in itself. Ryan Telese of Glen Cove learned that right away, enjoying every minute of being around people of varied ages and walks of life. What he never expected was that carrying bags at The Creek in Locust Valley would pay for his entire four years at college.
"It's just incredible. I didn't ever think I'd be awarded something like this. It's such a longshot," he said on the phone from Penn State, where he is two weeks into his freshman year.
Actually, it is not as much of a longshot as it used to be around here. Telese is the seventh Long Islander in the past six years to have received a Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship, part of a national program that never touched down in Nassau or Suffolk until 2012.
He had not heard about the others, having learned about the Evans after his mother, Rose Ann, did an online financial aid search (she also told relatives about the Long Island Caddie Scholarship and her nephew Nick won one of those). Ryan, a senior at Glen Cove High School at the time, scrambled to get the paperwork done and didn't scramble quickly enough. He had to call administrators to get a deadline extension.
By then, he and his parents had done their homework on the program. They learned that the scholarship was established in 1930 by Evans, who had started as a caddie and became the first to win the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open in the same year (1916) and later won another U.S. Amateur at Engineers Country Club in Roslyn Harbor (1920) and played in the inaugural Walker Cup at the National Golf Links of America in Southampton (1922).
Ryan, Rose Ann and Michael also found out that Evans had a soft spot for caddies and persuaded the Western Golf Association to administer the scholarship that currently is putting 965 caddies through school and has seen 10,600 graduate. Among those was Ed Murray, who once caddied for Evans himself and whose brother Bill made a famous movie about bag-toters, "Caddyshack."
Most of all, Telese learned how wise he was to choose caddying as a summer job when he was a high school sophomore. "I had heard good things about it, so I called up a bunch of different clubs," he said. "Some of the other clubs weren't sure if I could get out, they have a lot of older caddies. But at The Creek, they said, 'Come over and you'll get out.'
He won the trust of caddie master Mike Hammes and the members. "It's so cool to meet so many successful people. With so many of them, it's like talking to a family friend," he said.
Unlike in "Caddyshack," Telese did not have to win a tournament to earn the full ride (although he was captain of the high school golf team). He had to maintain good grades, get a recommendation from Hammes, write an essay and withstand an interview in front of 100 people at a Manhattan office. Of course he aced the latter, right?
"To be completely honest, no," he said. "I felt like I could have answered things better. Either way, it was a great feeling of relief when it was over."
Better yet was the feeling two weeks later when he received his acceptance letter. His parents, he said, "were just ecstatic."
He is convinced that caddying is a higher pursuit. "It just widens everything," he said. "It makes you think quicker, it makes you think more critically. And in the caddie yard, you meet so many different types of people with different backgrounds. You learn so much, you can't go wrong."
Zach Ziegler, The Bridge, fifth hole, 144 yards, 9-iron
Casey Alexander, Glen Head CC, 12th hole, 159 yards, 7-iron
Alan Brey, Sumpwams Creek GC, ninth hole, 165 yards, 5-iron
Mark Zusy, Engineers CC, 14th hole, 126 yards, pitching wedge
Cliff Saffron, Engineers CC, ninth hole, 185 yards, 4-hybrid
Gerard Connors, St. George’s CC, ninth hole, 142 yards, 8-iron
Bill Peters, Swan Lake GC, 16th hole, 124 yards, 4-hybrid
Kirby Coughlin, Swan Lake GC, 16th hole, 96 yards, 52-degree wedge
Scott Kaufman, Woodside Club, 14th hole, 134 yards, pitching wedge
Jeffrey Zwecker, Cold Spring CC, third hole, 145 yards, 8-iron
Jennifer Roberts, Heatherwood GC, 10th hole, 110 yards, 7-wood
Anthony Peterson, Heatherwood GC, 12th hole, 112 yards, 6-iron