By Mike Moretti
The 70th anniversary of the New Jersey State Golf Association Caddie Scholarship Foundation was celebrated on Wednesday, June 21 when it hosted its annual caddie scholars’ reception at its facility at the Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth.
The event gathered an audience of more than 150. In attendance were more than 40 current and former caddies, plus members of their immediate families, parents, friends, guest speakers, and administrators of the NJSGA.
Guest speakers included Caddie Scholarship Foundation chairman Ben Del Vento, Caddie Scholar alumnus Bill King, NJSGA president Dan Meehan, former Caddie Scholars Traver Davis and Mario Gurrieri and NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation director Johanna Gavin.
The CSF has surpassed $13.35 million in donations in its 70-year history. For the 2017-18 academic year, $635,426 in scholarship aid was awarded to 147 Caddie Scholars, as $797,963 in donations were received in 2016. The NJSGA CSF gives away 88 percent of its total donations received.
The event recognized the top donating clubs. The Top Par Clubs (individual donations of $100+) are, in order of giving, Manasquan River, Upper Montclair, Spring Brook, Baltusrol and Ridgewood. The Top Five Contributing Clubs are, in order, Baltusrol, Echo Lake, Canoe Brook, Manasquan River and Upper Montclair.
The Caddie Scholars graduation rate is an amazing 96 percent, highest in the nation. The NJSGA CSF grants 21 named scholarships that augment the regular $3,500 award.
Over the 70 years of continuous operation, 2,730 individuals have been rewarded with NJSGA CSF scholarships. Some 92 percent of those students who apply receive NJSGA Caddie Scholarships.
“The State of New Jersey has the finest caddie scholarship program in the country,” said Del Vento, who was one of four NJSGA Caddie Scholars when he received a full tuition scholarship of $500 to attend Rutgers University in 1957. He caddied at Rock Spring Club in West Orange. “For 65 years, I have been involved with the Caddie Scholarship Foundation and it is a labor of love.
“We are announcing tonight our ‘70 For 70’ campaign in which we will ask contributors to donate $70 in honor of our 70 years. We are proud to have reached this milestone. All of you caddies have the opportunity to let your education take you far.
“We have received so many letters of congratulations on our 70thanniversary. Caddie scholars have achieved in many different fields. We have to be thankful for the opportunities the great game of golf has given us all for 70 years and for many more years in the future,” Del Vento said.
Davis, who also caddied at Rock Spring, now part of Montclair Golf Club, played soccer at both Seton Hall Prep and Johns Hopkins University and was team captain at both schools. He works for Delaware Investments in New York City.
“When I was a caddie, I was proud to get the scholarship and proud to achieve. I was happy to be part of this organization. Later, when asked what I took from being a caddie was the work ethic. Today, as I reflect what the game of golf and the Caddie Scholarship Foundation means to me, it taught me about giving, and the value of an education.
“We have to be thankful that there is such an organization in our state that is so supportive and so genuine, and can support so many caddies in New Jersey. Be thankful for the opportunities the New Jersey State Golf Association has provided. It’s an honor to come back. It makes me feel proud in the things I’ve been able to achieve,” Davis said.
Gurrieri caddied for nine years at Echo Lake and received a caddie scholarship to Rutgers in 1965. He then graduated Columbia Law School and has specialized in matrimonial law for 44 years.
“I caddied six days a week. I loved it then and I’m still thinking about it all these years later. I’m sure all of you recipients will have the same type of recollections. I loved to get out in the sunshine, to meet people and the money was tax free,” Gurrieri said.
King was a member of the Rutgers golf team that won the 1979 Big East championship. King, a long-time head professional at Spring Lake Golf Club, won the 2007 NJSGA/NJPGA Senior Open and has been inducted into the NJPGA Hall of Fame
“My message for the current recipients is to give back. Get involved, whether with children or senior citizens, at church or at school. And stay involved with the NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation. Congratulations on our 70th anniversary. When you donate back to the Foundation, it’s a great way to thank those who changed your life. And you’ll have the opportunity to change another caddie’s life, “ King noted.
“I’m very proud that we are the best single state association for caddie scholarships,” Del Vento said. “All we do is raise money for education. Education is the most precious gift you can give to anyone.”
NJSGA Caddie Scholars, including incoming freshmen and new in-college recipients, receive a minimum award of $3,500 per year. This action is a continuance of the Foundation’s long-range goal to keep pace with the continued increase in tuition costs.
While admittedly a supplemental scholarship in terms of overall college costs, the NJSGA Caddie Scholarship plays an important role for most recipients, given that the main focus is to provide scholarships for those most in need. Since its inception in 1947, the Foundation has funded the costs of higher education to more than 3,000 caddie scholars.
The scholarships are funded through individual member contributions at the NJSGA’s member clubs that sponsor caddie programs. The applicant must have caddied at least two golfing seasons, document financial need, and demonstrate an academic record consistent with college requirements.