Wiltonian recruits Connecticut’s first Chick Evans Caddie Scholar

After receiving a full ride to the University of Michigan through the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship program, Bob Carney, a Wilton resident of 19 years, said he knew he had to “pay it forward.”

“The Evans Scholarship is a remarkable scholarship for kids who caddie that covers full tuition and housing in an Evans Scholarship House,” said Mr. Carney, whose brother also received the scholarship.

“My parents had six children — we lived in Michigan — and my dad was making about $40,000 a year. To have six children and have two of them go to the University of Michigan on a full scholarship was just a huge thing, so that’s what it is to me and I see that happening to a lot of young caddies now.”

Mr. Carney said the more than 80-year-old Evans Scholarship has changed over the years.

“The scholarship, for the most part, has been in the Midwest, but because there are good caddie programs in the East, it’s now looking for applicants on the East Coast,” said Mr. Carney, who helped recruit Connecticut’s first Evans Scholar, Ari Rexhepaj, a student from Fairfield who moved to the United States from Albania four and a half years ago.

“The numbers of kids are going to grow substantially on the East Coast, and Ari is really like a landmark. He’s a remarkable kid in his own right. He came here and had to learn English and excelled in school. He’s a real kind of American Dream story and for him to get this scholarship is a huge deal.”

Mr. Carney met Ari while golfing at Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, where Ari worked as a caddie.

“The first summer I came here, my cousin had friends who worked at the Brooklawn Country Club and I needed a job,” said Ari.

“My cousin asked his friend, who said I should apply, so I did, and the next day I started showing up every day.”

Mr. Carney said Ari is “incredibly hard-working” and “the most likable, cheerful, nicest kid you could meet.”

“People want to have him as a caddie because is conscientious and always with a smile on his face,” said Mr. Carney.

After the two got to know each other, Mr. Carney approached Ari and proposed that he apply for the Evans Scholarship.

To be eligible to apply for the scholarship, applicants must:

  • Have a strong caddie record of successfully and regularly caddying for a minimum of two years.
  • Complete their junior year of high school with above a B average in college preparatory courses and take the ACT.
  • Demonstrate outstanding character, integrity and leadership.
  • Demonstrate a need for financial assistance.

“I thought it was a great opportunity. I was amazed that it could pay the full way,” said Ari, who decided to apply.

“I got the acceptance letter at the end of March, which was amazing, and in April, I had orientation of the house I’d be living in as an Evans Scholar.”

The Evans Scholarship is awarded for 26 universities in the United States, of which Ari decided to attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he is currently majoring in linguistics.

“It’s been great getting to know people around me, experiencing the classes, living in the house — getting to know all the caddies and hear all their stories,” said Ari. “In the house, we’re all like family.”

As an Evans Scholar, Ari is expected to achieve above a 3.0 grade point average and participate in chapter affairs and campus or community activities outside the chapter. Scholars are also responsible for the upkeep of the Scholarship House.

Ari said his experience as a caddie has taught him numerous life lessons.

“There are rules in caddying that apply to real life, like you have to be quick on your feet and get feedback from the guys you’re working with,” said Ari.

“You learn from your mistakes, like if you read the putt wrong, you learn from that mistake and the next day, you don’t do it again.”

Ari said receiving the Evans Scholarship has been “a great thing.”

“It wouldn’t have happened without Mr. Carney and the guys at the country club,” he said. “I appreciate all of it.”

Click here to learn more about the Chick Evans Caddie Scholarship.