Caddie Derrick Creque talks strategy with golfer Jeff Judis at Toledo’s Inverness Club, where there are 300 caddies on staff. Creque is one of several Evans Scholars at the club. He attends Miami University.
They have been playing golf at Inverness Club for more than a century, and caddies have been part of the experience for almost as long.
The club’s yearbook from 1920, the year Inverness hosted its first U.S. Open championship, included a page of caddie rules, many of which exist to this day. That same yearbook listed an honorary member, Charles Evans, Jr., who appropriately enough would become the patron saint of caddies.
Today, Inverness has the largest caddie program in the Toledo area — in all of Ohio, for that matter — with about 300 caddies, boys and girls ranging in age from 14 to soon-to-be college seniors, on caddie master Ken Koperski’s 2011 roster. Sylvania Country Club has a corps of 125 caddies, while 70 are on the rolls at Toledo Country Club. Belmont and Stone Oak have smaller caddie programs, but like the others, are member clubs for the Evans Scholars Foundation.
Few clubs in the nation are as active in the program and as supportive of the Par Club as is Inverness. The club’s rules integrate caddies into the golfing experience; during the summer months, when schools are in recess and the full caddie staff is available, members under the age of 60 (unless they have a medical excuse) must walk and employ caddies.
Members also pay into a caddie incentive fund that provides bonus money and pays for an annual caddie banquet, and support a separate Inverness caddie scholarship fund.
Sam Snead had the help of a caddie at Inverness in 1950. The club requires members younger than 60 to use a caddie if they can walk.
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Koperski said the program creates character and helps youngsters mature while giving them a summer job that can be lucrative for dedicated and hard-working teens.
Caddie Derrick Creque agreed, saying “being respectful is very important because members, if they like you, will request you for future rounds.”
Creque and Matt Mocek are current Inverness caddies and Evans Scholars at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Mocek, 20, is a rising junior and will be joined next fall by his brother Andy, who was recently named an Evans Scholarship recipient and will be a freshman.
“This is such a huge help to my parents,” Matt said. “They made such a sacrifice to send me to St. Francis for high school, and this was my way to pay them back.”
Derrick, 21, learned of the program from his late brother, Jarrod, who was an Evans Scholar at Miami. A rising senior, he said Inverness members also provided plenty of encouragement for him to pursue the scholarship.
“We pay an annual house bill that covers maintenance and utilities at our Evans house at Miami, plus books and a meal plan,” Derrick said. “But we’re still spending only about one-tenth of what other students spend. I guess the scholarship is worth about $80,000 for four years. I know it’s a huge relief for my parents. We talk about it every day, and I know they’re proud of me.”
Katie, left, and Emilee Knakiewicz caddie at Sylvania Country Club. Their scholarships help them go to Michigan.
At one time caddie programs were open only to boys, but no longer.
Sylvania CC caddie master Tom Grzywinski has sisters Emilee and Katie Knakiewicz from Temperance on his staff. Both started caddying just days before their 14th birthdays, both are Evans Scholars who will be sophomores in the fall at UM, and both are pursuing careers in health care.
“The first round I caddied was for a doctor who was on call, and he had to leave after 13 holes,” Emilee recalled. “I was ready to lie down in the grass and never move again. But I would say that the day I walked into Sylvania Country Club six years ago was the best decision I ever made. It really changed me. I’ve met a lot of amazing, influential members. And Tom is a great first boss. He makes you expect good things from yourself.”
Emilee called the Evans Scholarship the “opportunity of a lifetime,” and sister Katie agreed.
“It has meant pretty much everything,” Katie said. “The University of Michigan was my dream school, but with twins in college at the same time it would have been really hard on my parents. So being caddies and getting this scholarship has opened a million doors for both of us. To be able to graduate after four years of college without debt, I mean, that’s an amazing opportunity.”
Matt Mocek, left, aids John Thomas. Mocek goes to Miami University.
“Imagine what all of those kids might be doing someday, thanks to the education opportunity” Grzywinski said. “It all starts with us getting good kids and good people. I orchestrate it, but the members support it. Inverness makes taking a caddie somewhat mandatory. Here, our members don’t have to support the caddie program or the Evans Scholars; taking a cart is less expensive and whenever a caddie goes out it is lost cart revenue for the club. But they all do support it. That’s where the credit goes.”
Grzywinski, a retired educator who was caddie master at Inverness from 1980-87 and is in his 21st year at Sylvania, said he has had about 90 Evans Scholars at those two stops.
Jim Daniel, who supervises the caddie program at Toledo Country Club, said he has had around 20 caddies win the college scholarship, including three who are currently in school.
“We’re fortunate that we have a group of 20-plus members who always take caddies and do so much to help the program,” Daniel, in his 18th year as caddie master, said. “I do this for the Evans Scholars and for young kids in the neighborhood. I encourage those who are doing well in school and have a financial need to pursue the scholarship.”
Evans Scholars applicants must have a strong caddie record, high character, excellent grades and test scores, and a financial need.
Caddie masters provide training, both in a classroom setting and on the golf course, for rookie caddies. There is a lot of learning on the job thereafter as club members help train the staffs and rate caddies after each round.
The basics, said Matt Mocek, include “carrying the bag, finding the ball after shots, getting yardages, cleaning the clubs, fixing divots, and tending the flag.”
Koperski, a retired police officer who is in his 18th year at Inverness, jokingly said the caddie rules can be condensed into the three “ups” — show up, keep up, and shut up.
“What keeps me coming back is to see these kids at the age of 14, then see them five or six years later and how self-assured and conversant they’ve become,” Koperski said. “The program and our club’s members help them grow up, and I think they’re much better off for the experience.”
Grzywinski, Koperski, and Daniel all were inducted into the Toledo Golf Hall of Fame in 2008 for their contributions to the caddie programs.
“You know, kids get a bad rap these days,” Grzywinski said. “But if you’re here at 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning and see these kids coming in with smiles on their faces, ready to go to work, you might form a different opinion.”
Daniel may have hit on the bottom line, though. He said whenever he plays a round with one of the caddies at Toledo CC he “is always reminded that walking with a caddie truly is the best way to play the game.”
Since 1930, the Western Golf Association, headquartered near Chicago, has administered a scholarship fund founded by Chick Evans, that same honorary Inverness member and one of the top amateur players of his era, to send deserving caddies to college. In the eight decades since, the foundation has invested $46 million while educating some 9,500 caddies, providing full four-year tuition and housing. This past school year, 850 Evans Scholars attended 18 different universities, 15 of which have on-campus foundation residences.
“Our budget is up to about $11 million per year,” said John Kretzschmar, a trustee of the Evans Scholars Foundation who resides in Bowling Green and, during 2000-01, the only Ohioan ever to serve as president of the Western Golf Association.
“The WGA runs the oldest PGA Tour event, the Western Open (now called the BMW Championship), and all proceeds go to the Evans Scholars Foundation. We have member clubs who support the program in so many ways, and there are 33,000 individual givers in what we call the Par Club. It’s my first love, and I imagine a number of others involved feel the same way.”
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: email@example.com or 419-724-6398.