January 19, 2021 - As a youngster, soccer and baseball were the sports that Drew Valsamedis was attracted to. Golf wasn’t even on the radar.

“In fact, the first day I went to caddie at Manasquan River Golf Club was the first day I had ever set foot on a golf course. At the time, I was 14 and looking for a good job. My friend Peter’s father, who was also the coach of my travel baseball team, recommended I try caddying.”

That coach just happened to be Peter Gacos, at the time the president of Manasquan River Golf Club. Gacos put Valsamedis in touch with Sean McPherson, the club’s director of outside operations, who took the young man under his wing.

“In the training program at Manasquan River, they start you out as a caddie for nine holes. I was so bad on the first day that I put the strap of the bag on backwards. There was a lot of room for improvement. Eventually, I learned how the game works, I gained knowledge of the course, and I figured out the proper places to stand,” said Valsamedis of Wall Township, currently a second-semester freshman, majoring in economics and political science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“The one thing I have always been consistent with is my hustle. If the golfer sees you also moving all over the place, it shows that I am working hard, and they won’t hold it against me even if I make a mistake.”

Valsamedis is the recipient of a New Jersey State Golf Association Caddie Scholarship Foundation grant. His $6,000 grant is the Nestor J. MacDonald Scholarship, awarded for academic excellence. MacDonald, a member of the NJSGA Hall of Fame, was a founder of the NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation and its chairman from 1957 to 1967.

At Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, Valsamedis was a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and an AP Scholar with Distinction. He was vice president of the National Honor Society and Editor-in-Chief of the yearbook. He was named outstanding delegate in a Model United Nations conference.

“Drew certainly has the integrity and the character to meld into any situation on the golf course,” said the elder Gacos. “He has always been a very confident individual who has never had a chip on his shoulder. He has achieved a lot and never talks about his accomplishments. He has proven a lot of people right. His personal integrity has come to fruition and maturity.”

In 2020, the NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation received more than $1 million in donations for the second consecutive year. A total of $635,000 was awarded to 147 caddie scholars (with three deferrals) for the academic year 2020-21.

Since 1947, the NJSGA CSF has distributed nearly $16 million to 3,026 Caddie Scholars. These scholars graduate at a rate greater than 96 percent.

“I was ecstatic to receive the MacDonald Scholarship, especially when the letter told me it was for $6,000. Since I have dreams of someday attending law school, every dollar counts,” Valsamedis said.

At 6-foot-3, he is a talented goalie in soccer. He played for the Cedar Stars during his high school years, who compete in the United States Soccer Development Academy (DA) Leagues. These leagues are recognized as the highest level of youth soccer participation in the U.S.

He will join the Johns Hopkins varsity soccer team when play resumes.

“I’ve been here in Baltimore, living in an apartment and learning virtually. I’ve met many teammates and other students and have been able to enjoy the college experience I’ve always dreamed of,” he said.

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