UNIVERSITY PARK — A group of 39 student golf caddies has taken up residence in the former Sigma Nu fraternity house located at 340 Burrowes Road on the Penn State campus. The J. Wood Platt Evans Scholarship house was introduced to the public during an open house and ceremony held on Sept. 22.
The male and female students living in the house all worked as caddies during their high school years, and are now recipients of Evans Scholarships or Platt Evans Scholarships, which are full tuition and housing scholarships awarded to caddies who demonstrate excellent academics, a strong caddie record, outstanding character, and financial need. Established by the Western Golf Association Evans Scholars Foundation and the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust, the house is a crucial component of the organization’s mission, according to Jeff Harrison, senior vice president of the Evans Scholars Foundation.
“Evans Scholars live together in community. They support each other, and community living can make a large university seem very small,” he explained. “It’s a unique living and learning environment which has created incredible outcomes. The Evans Scholars national graduation rate is 95 percent, and the average GPA is 3.3.”
Based outside of Chicago in the aptly-named village of Golf, Ill., the Western Golf Association sponsors the BMW PGA Championship, and promotes and supports caddie programs at golf courses across the country.
Through the Evans Scholars Foundation, the WGA has been awarding caddie scholarships since 1930, and currently has 1,010 recipients attending 18 universities.
While Evans Scholars have attended Penn State sporadically since 1950, it was just over the past several years that the Foundation, in partnership with the Philadelphia-based J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust, began working toward establishing a cohesive chapter and a scholarship house on the Penn State campus.
“Penn State is a world class university, and it is a great draw for students from Pennsylvania and all over the country,” Harrison said. “With our growth strategy, we thought Penn State would be an outstanding gateway to the east. We’re thrilled to be at Penn State.”
Working with Penn State administrators, the organization began sending more scholars to the university, working toward a community living situation by putting freshman scholars together in campus residence halls while WGA officials searched for a more ideal housing situation.
Senior Evan Manna caddied at Park Country Club of Buffalo during his high school summers. Upon being awarded the Evans Scholarship, he became a member of the second class of freshman Evans Scholars to live together in a Pollock Halls dorm.
“Living on the same dorm floor, we got to know the other freshman Scholars, but we didn’t really have much communication with the older students because they were placed elsewhere during their sophomore years,” he explained. “Living in the house provides a lot of added benefits and value to the college experience. We all have such similar backgrounds as caddies, so it’s a dynamic that really works inside the house. Academically, it’s great to just be able to knock on someone’s door and ask a question about homework or to study with each other.”
Manna, who was appointed the chapter’s first president, said academics are the main focus of the house, but that the chapter will be giving back to the local community through service projects throughout the year.
The students run the house independently, but receive guidance from WGA members and from Penn State faculty advisors.
University officials who attended the open house voiced enthusiastic support for the new scholarship house.
“The J. Wood Platt Evans Scholarship House is a wonderful addition to the University Park campus, providing a group of highly committed and engaged students the opportunity to live and study together in an environment that’s unusually supportive and positive,” said Damon Sims, Vice President for Student Affairs at Penn State. “I see it as a nearly perfect model for how off-campus community living for undergraduate students can be done well in a University setting.”