During the last four years, Olathe North senior Javier Contreras has spent many of his weekends and summer days lugging golf clubs around Indian Hills Country Club, often sacrificing fun activities with friends and family time.
It all proved to be worth it when he received the Chick Evans Scholarship for Caddies, which will pay for his tuition and housing at the University of Kansas during the next four years.
“To me and my family, it means so much, because we’ve been working for it for so long,” Contreras, 18, said.
The scholarship fund, which was started by amateur golfer Chick Evans 88 years ago, will award full-ride scholarships for 270 caddies entering college this year.
Each scholarship recipient must have at least a B average, demonstrated financial need, impeccable character and leadership, and have been caddying for at least two years with an organized program. Scholarship winners may attend 19 different schools at which the Western Golf Association has scholarship house for accommodations.
Contreras, who won the 145-pound championship at the Class 6A state wrestling tournament last month, started caddying when his coach at the Kansas City Gladiators wrestling club, John Cameron, told him about the scholarship. Although it wasn’t a foregone conclusion that he’d earn the scholarship, caddying was a good after-school job.
“Being a caddy is kind of fun,” Contreras said. “It’s good pay, (and although) sometimes they get mad and they take it out on you, you get to see different attitudes, different ways of being and personalities. You also get to meet important people, people who are successful.”
One of the biggest skills being a caddy has taught him is communication.
“Even people who aren’t too social, that will make them social,” Contreras said. “You don’t want to be with some guy carrying their bag, never saying a word. It forces you to be social.”
He is the only Kansas City-area caddy to earn the scholarship this year after there were two recipients in the metro last year.
“After practice every day for two months, I would work on applying,” Contreras said. “(There was an) essay to be revised over and over. ... It was very intense around August to December. It wasn’t just, ‘Apply and you get it.’ It was, ‘Apply and keep working.’”
Contreras hopes to be the first from his family to graduate from college. His older brother started college, but the family ran out of money to pay tuition after about three semesters, so he had to drop out.
Now, Contreras, who transferred to Olathe North this year from Wyandotte High School in order to have more rigorous preparation going into college, said he hopes his scholarship will inspire his four younger siblings.
“My old school wasn’t preparing me,” Contreras said. “This one’s homework, homework, homework, and I think that’s what college is going to be like, so I’m thankful it’s preparing me well.”
Jack Holland, a Western Golf Association director at Indian Hills Country Club, received the scholarship 50 years ago to attend the University of Missouri. He’s also big supporter of Contreras, describing him as a “thoughtful young person.”
Holland recalled an incident that speaks to Contreras’ character.
“He was driving over the 18th Street Expressway Bridge and saw an individual standing (who) looked like he might be thinking about jumping ...,” Holland said. “He had the good sense of mind to stop his car and engage the fellow in conversation, and his conversation helped avoid a suicide.”
Contreras remembered the situation, too.
“I see this man on top of the freeway sign, and I start thinking to myself maybe he doesn’t want to jump,” Contreras said. “I get out of the truck, and I climb up the hill to get to the bridge. I get to the bridge, and I was real nervous, (but I thought), ‘What would I be if I don’t do something to stop it?’”
Another driver called the police and, by the time they arrived, Contreras had talked the person out of jumping.
When it came to earning the Chick Evans award, Contreras was grateful for the support he received from Holland, which was key to getting the scholarship.
“He was motivating me, letting me know I was capable of being awarded the scholarship,” Contreras said. “When someone has confidence in you, it makes a difference. Without him none of this would have happened.”