FONTANA-ON-GENEVA-LAKE, Wis. - The life of a caddy can be inconspicuous as well as demanding and grueling.
Yet it can also be one of the most important roles in one's life.
"When I started, I didn’t think that golf was super entertaining," said Liam Jeninga.
As Jeninga walks the golf course at Big Foot Country Club in Fontana-on-Geneva-Lake, the soon-to-be college freshman’s views are much different from six years ago.
"You know, you have four hours to walk with the golfers here," Jeninga said. "And it’s just wonderful to have an open ear and talk with the people here because they’re all business owners, entrepreneurs, all these wonderful people that you can learn so much from."
Like Jeninga, fellow caddies Sarah Teske and Owen Stauffer have been carrying bags and getting to know members for years here.
"When I started, I wasn’t a very social person at all," said Stauffer. "But I learned over the course of 200-odd rounds to interact with people, to become friends with people, to be able to work with people in a short amount of time and thus develop relationships."
"Being out here, being with people that are very successful in their professions, helped me build confidence to be who I am," said Teske.
While all three have gained confidence, they’ve also all earned the prestigious Evans Scholarship, a full-ride college scholarship for caddies.
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"I think we’re all very proud of each other," said Jeninga. "We’re very proud of Bigfoot for preparing us for this. I think Bigfoot’s very proud of us for getting this far. And there’s a lot of happiness and joy that’s around."
Former president of the club and Western Golf Association Director Mike George has seen the caddy program develop from the beginning.
"We were able to grow the notoriety of the program, offer scholarship opportunities to our caddies and from there the program flourished beyond that," said George.
"Both the members and our pros know what it takes to make an Evan’s Scholar," Stauffer said. "What they’ll do is they’re good at spotting candidates early on and giving them opportunities to prove themselves, such as me, Liam and Sarah."
From there, the caddies are the ones making sure they’re taking the necessary steps to earn the scholarship, getting good grades, being involved in their community and working very hard at the club.
"If you persevere, and you get through those 5:30 arrival times, 5:30am arrival times, and you’re willing to work hard, and you make sure your pro knows that you want to work hard, it will pay off," said Stauffer.
"All the early mornings," Jeninga said. "That’s really important to get things done in your day. So, when you’re waking up at 5am to get here, that’s going to help you along the way."
"It pushed me a little bit to always be my best self," Teske said. "And even if you have an off day, there’s always tomorrow to be better."
For Sarah, Owen and Liam, tomorrow is looking to be better as they step into college understanding how the efforts at Big Foot will impact the rest of their lives.
"I would say that I have to prove myself from this point onward," Stauffer said. "I have to, essentially, earn Evan’s Scholar next to my name for the rest of my life. I’m very grateful to be coming out of college debt free."
Owen and Sarah will be going to UW-Madison in the fall while Liam will head to Northwestern.
All four years of school, along with room and board, are covered by the scholarship.
The Evans Scholars Foundation is the largest scholarship program for caddies in the country.