Monday, December 22, 2008

Prayers answered with an Evans Scholarship for caddies

By Gene Wojciechowski

You don't know Kawthar Rkein. Neither did I until the 17-year-old caddie walked into a packed ballroom, stepped behind a wooden podium and, as her legs shook uncontrollably, began a 12-minute interview session that one way or another would literally change her life.

Not much was at stake. Only an academic scholarship to such high-priced universities as Northwestern, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin or, in Rkein's case, Marquette. Maybe that's why Sandra Rkein, a single mom who supports her two daughters and her own mother on a cleaning woman's wages, has been praying to St. Jude so much.

St. Jude -- patron saint of the hopeless.

So on the morning of Dec. 11, Kawthar Rkein, her knees knocking, stood in front of more than 100 Evans Scholars selection committee members at a suburban Chicago country club and told her story. She talked about the three ethnic youth clubs she joined at high school, just so she could meet different kinds of people ... about the money she saved from caddying that she used to pay for school books ... about the honors courses she loved ... about her lifelong dream to go to college. Nobody had time to ask her about her work as a soup kitchen volunteer.

Rkein's tiny but confident voice only cracked once -- when she talked about her mom.

"My mom," she said, taking a deep breath, "is amazing."

So was Rkein and the other 19 finalists who took turns speaking to that selection committee earlier this month on a bitterly cold day at River Forest Country Club in Elmhurst, Ill.
Think about it: You're what, 17, and you're summoned to a room full of adults, many of them wearing the green blazers of the Western Golf Association, which oversees the largest privately funded college scholarship program in the country? There's a waiting area and then, when it's your turn, a WGA rep leads you through a pair of glass doors, to the front of the ballroom, where you shake hands with the WGA big hitters. Then you're directed to the podium, where 100 committee members -- all allowed to ask pointed questions about your academic record, caddying experiences, life aspirations, etc. -- are assembled in front of you. These are the people who will vote yes or no on your scholarship after you leave the room.

Nerve-wracking? One finalist's face turned a splotchy red by the end of the interview. Another finalist kept wringing her hands every eight seconds. Another finalist could have used a beach towel to soak up the forehead flop sweat.

Nearly 600 caddies nationwide applied to the Evans Scholars program this year. It's a breeze: All you need is club sponsorship, a sparkling academic record, a history of community service and/or meaningful extracurricular activities, leadership skills and serious financial need (parents' tax returns are required). Gandhi would have had a hard time winning one of these things.

The finalists appear in front of the state selection committees, like this one. And they tell their stories.

Read more compelling here

Until I see you on the first tee,


Friday, December 19, 2008

The Changing of the Game

As I sat at my desk last week, looking at the walls, trying to find something to do to past the time since I was without my life support, aka “computer”, which crashed. I realized that we as a society have turned all our needs to technology, not only in the working world but also in the game of golf.

I kind of feel like Judge Smails wife in the great movie Caddyshack when she ask Rodney Dangerfield “I cannot believe that you do not have a device that just allows you to sit in the club house and not have to play.”

Think about it for a second, we as golfers get fitted just right for every piece of equipment that we use in our bag. Over 90% of companies now days want you to be hooked up to some sort of a launch monitor to get just the right fit for your swing. Now you can even be fitted to find the right ball you should be playing. The game of golf has been taken over by the robotic world. Players are all trying to have the same mechanics, they want to be able to swing as hard as they can and hit it is far as they can. I see more golfers standing on the range and just waling on range ball after range ball trying to see how hard and far they hit the ball instead of working on how to shape shots and control distance of the ball. So the true art of working the golf ball and hitting different shot has been lost in this golf phase.

So that is why I am so glad to see that the USGA has stepped in to change the groove patterns on the clubs. It has been stated by many touring pros that on golf holes that are tight and narrow and should really reward the player for hitting the fairway, the players right now are just hitting driver of the tee to get as close the green as possible because they know that the short iron they hit for the next shot will stop the ball on the green. In my eyes that has really hurt the game and the great mental side of it. Golf played the correct way is a game that you must think through each shot that you hit, and always be thinking about where you want the ball to go. Right now golf is being played by a bunch of guys that are big and strong and just try to muscle the golf course. That is fine, but with the upcoming changes to the clubs it will not work as well. It evens the field out for all sizes to play; now the guy that might not hit it as far but never misses a fairway is back in the game.

I will tell you what, other than Tiger who is just a freak of nature, I bet next year when the tour players must have the correct grooves in play you will start to see the smaller and not as long hitters back at the top. I like this new wave or I guess you could call it the old school way coming back. However it all comes down to one factor and always will. Whoever is putting the ball the best will win!!

Until I see you on the first tee!


Bigger and Better!!

I am proud to be able to announce the 2009 MGA Championship Schedule. As you will see, the Championships are being held at some outstanding Member Clubs. Also, you will notice that we have added a couple of new things. For the first time we are going to have Girls compete in the Missouri Junior Amateur. We are also opening the ever popular Father-Son Championship up to a Professional Division and adding another course. This year each team will play a round at Porto Cima and one round at the Lodge’s signature course Witch’s Cove. This will allow for more teams to compete and enjoy the great event. One final new twist is that we have added 2 more senior series events from 14 to 16.

I can not be more pleased with the quality of courses our Championship events will be held at in 2009. It just goes to show how great our member clubs love to support and promote Amateur golf in Missouri. I am looking forward to the upcoming season and cannot wait for it to start!

Check out the 2009 Schedule Now!!

Have a wonderful and safe Holiday Season,

Until I see you on the first tee,