MILWAUKEE - Carrying heavy golf bags over long, hot summers can pay off for teenage caddies. One young man is benefitting from doing just that.
"In a way, it chose me," said Ayokunnumi Ogunbowale.
Walking the golf course at the Milwaukee Country Club is just another series of steps in Ogunbowale’s journey.
"Look around you. It’s a great view, great day to be on this course," said Ogunbowale.
It’s also been a great couple of years caddying here.
"Fortunately, got to rise up through the ranks, now I’m an honor caddie here," said Ogunbowale.
"He’s always asking questions. He works hard. He’s genuine. He’s got a great heart and he’s making his own luck," said Jeff Brown, Milwaukee Country Club board member.
And now, a full scholarship to the University of Wisconsin with the Evans Scholarship.
"Jumping, jubilant, yelling for, mom, ‘I got it, yay!’ so it was really a great deal," said Ogunbowale. "I’m really fortunate to be in this position."
Well before forging a relationship with Milwaukee Country Club Board Member Jeff Brown, Ogunbowale was immigrating to the U.S. with his family from Nigeria.
"If you were to tell me when I was 8 years old that, ‘You’re going to go to create a new life for yourself, meet new families, create new memories in a whole different country with a whole different accent,’ I would have laughed it off," said Ogunbowale.
Since his arrival, a number of experiences stand out, especially his first winter here.
"The first day it snowed, was like, ‘Whoa, look at this!’" said Ogunbowale. "In my opinion, it was worth the hype."
Five years later, he fell into another unknown situation with the Caddie and Leadership Academy.
"So, found a summer job caddying. What is that? It’s golf," said Ogunbowale. "I don’t know anything about golf. Used it as a learning opportunity."
It was a learning opportunity for the academy’s Executive Director Phil Poletti, as well.
"When I first met him four and a half years ago, what I saw in him was persistence," said Poletti.
He started at Brown Deer Golf Course in the first class of caddies there, graduating to Milwaukee Country Club two years later. Not only did he get promoted to an opportunity to make a lot more money because he’s caddying more, but he was also promoted to an opportunity where he had a full, four-year scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. It gave him a path to his future.
"I’m fortunate enough to be able to study finance in Madison," said Ogunbowale. "So yeah, it’s been a wild ride, but we made it."
And the ride is still early.
The Evans Scholarship is for caddies, and it's for full tuition and housing over four years for each recipient. Ogunbowale, a graduate from Brown Deer High School is one of 21 students in Wisconsin who earned the scholarship this year.