The New Jersey State Golf Association’s Caddie Scholarship Foundation celebrated its 71st year when it hosted its annual Caddie Scholars Reception on June 26 at the Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth, home of the NJSGA.
With 40 caddies in attendance, plus members of their immediate families, the 100-person audience included current and former caddie scholars, parents, friends, guest speakers, and administrators of the NJSGA.
Guest speakers included CSF chairman Ben Del Vento, CSF Director Bill King, Caddie Scholars Heather Downey of Crestmont (Muhlenberg, Class of 2020), Griffin Baker of Rockaway River (Notre Dame, 2020), and CSF Education Chair Sheila Menendez.
New CSF/PGA advisor Greg Baker, head professional at Rockaway River Country Club, was introduced.
Heather Downey is the daughter of Crestmont Country Club head professional Bob Downey, while Griffin Baker is the son of Greg Baker.
“Much of what I’ve learned from caddying is actually larger life lessons that are going to stay with me for a long time. I’ve learned how to be strong, both mentally and physically, how to effectively communicate with others, and most importantly, how to be a confident woman in a job usually held by men,” Heather Downey said.
Said Griffin Baker: “I’m a proud and grateful recipient of the Nestor J. MacDonald Scholarship. If I didn’t receive this award, I don’t think I’d be attending Notre Dame right now. Caddying taught me so many things. It builds character and can make you tough.”
Del Vento 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 the Rock Spring Club in West Orange. “For 65 years, I have been involved with the Caddie Scholarship Foundation. It is a labor of love.“
“I’m very proud that we are the best single state association for caddie scholarships in the United States,” Del Vento said. “All we do is raise money for education. Education is the most precious gift you can give to anyone.”
King, himself a former NJSGA Caddie Scholar at Rutgers University, outlined a success formula to the current caddie scholars.
“Pass the game on to a friend. Remember, someone took the time to teach you. Be a mentor and get a young caddie involved in the game of golf. Be a volunteer in your school and your community. Give back to the next generation. Respect the ones who paved the way,” King offered.
“Make the pledge: As a college graduate, donate back to the NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation.”
King’s son, Will, a recent graduate of The College of New Jersey, is now working for the Charlotte Hurricanes of the National Hockey League. A letter he wrote to the CSF dated June 20, 2018, was read by Mr. Del Vento.
“I never could have predicted early on as a kid starting out that a job carrying golf bags would have played such a major role in my life. I owe the New Jersey State Golf Association and the Caddie Scholarship Foundation an immense debt of gratitude. I have learned so much from the wisdom of those who came before me not to forget the next caddie out there looking for a shot. I see the opportunity that I was given as a responsibility to ensure that more caddies continue to get a chance to better themselves and, in turn, make the world a better place,” Will King stated in his letter.
$14 Million to More Than 3000 Caddie Scholars
Since its inception in 1947, the CSF has awarded more than $14 million to more than 3,000 caddie scholars. The NJSGA CSF grants 21 named scholarships that augment the regular $3,500 award.
The CSF has announced its scholarship recipients for the 2018-19 academic year: 151 scholars from 42 member clubs are recipients of $656,590 in scholarship aid. Awarded were 24 new in-college applicants and 27 freshman applicants who had an average SAT score of 1,184 and 3.49 GPA. The Foundation continues to achieve a 96%+ graduation rate – one of the highest of any Caddie Scholarship program in the nation.
While admittedly a supplemental scholarship in terms of overall college costs, the caddie scholarship plays an important role for most recipients, given that its focus is on scholarships for those caddies most in need.
The scholarships are funded through individual 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.
But, at its core – as Ben Del Vento said – the CSF is a labor of love.