Stafford receives full-ride for caddying at Pete DyeMarch 1, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
DUBOIS — Colby Stafford still isn’t sure if it has sunk in yet. It might not sink in until he arrives on campus in Bloomington.
The Northeast Dubois senior is a recipient of the Western Golf Association’s Chick Evans Scholarship, which is awarded to caddies. Stafford is receiving a full ride to Indiana University following a successful interview on Jan. 30 at the Hillcrest Country Club in Indianapolis. It didn’t take long to receive the good news. Stafford wasn’t home when his mother, Deanna Linne, texted him on Feb. 8.
“‘It’s here, get home now,’” Linne told Stafford, according to the latter.
Stafford came back quickly. He received a packet in the mail. It was unopened when he got home. Excitement set in upon opening it and finding out he had been awarded the scholarship. The Evans Scholarship has a value of an estimated $120,000 for four years, according to an emailed press release sent to The Herald.
“It was such a relief, and it’s just an amazing thing because it lifts a huge burden off me and my family’s shoulders,” Stafford said.
Stafford began caddying at the Pete Dye Course at French Lick in summer 2017 after his freshman year. He found out about the caddie program from Northeast Dubois Principal Tina Fawks. Stafford learned through Fawks that others from Northeast Dubois have previously gotten caddie scholarships, and to do it would be a great opportunity. He applied through a meeting and received a caddie position.
Northeast Dubois does not have a golf program, and Stafford has never golfed. He doesn’t come from a family of golfers either. His first golfing experience came from caddying. Stafford likes different things about it. It gets him out, affords him exercise and he learns different skills, such as interacting with people he does not know.
Never could he have imagined a sport he hadn’t been around taking him to the places he’s going to.
The scholarship is named for Charles “Chick” Evans Jr., who won the 1916 U.S. Open and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1975. Evans established the Evans Scholars Foundation in 1930. There are four criteria to receive the scholarship: A caddie must have a strong caddying record, excellent academics, outstanding character and have demonstrated financial need.
He will be housed at the Evans Scholars Scholarship House, and is currently undecided on his major. Stafford won’t be caddying for IU, but instead will continue to caddie at Pete Dye while he attends IU. He’s expected to uphold the Evans Scholar standards of being a leader. It's ideal for Stafford to have a 3.5 grade point average, but at the very least a 3.25 while he’s in school.
Caddies who receive the scholarship also have their own unique story. Stafford’s is one of meeting adversity at an early age — and winning.
“When I was 3, I was diagnosed with leukemia,” he said. “I went to St. Jude [Children's Research Hospital] in Memphis, and I was in the hospital for a while down there. And then my case was different because you’re supposed to go into remission in 28 days, and it took me over three months. During that time, they actually thought I’d relapsed because I had gotten an infection, but thank God it wasn’t a relapse.”
There’s low risk, standard risk and high risk with leukemia. Stafford was a standard risk. This happened at an early age, but the memories remain. It was a traumatic event, but Stafford is glad he has those memories because of the amazing people he met and still keeps in contact with. It’s not a bad thing to Stafford because he’s still here. Remembering what he went through is also a good thing to him because he’s able to appreciate life now. He’s been in remission since April 2005, crediting his family, friends and the doctors and nurses of St. Jude.
“St. Jude, in general, is an amazing place,” Stafford said in a text message. “They gave me my life back, and I never received one bill from them. They were a blessing to my family and me. When we found out about remission, it was a major relief. We were so blessed and so relieved because the next step would have been a bone marrow transplant if I had not gone into remission.”
He perceives things differently than other people do. Some might see his sickness as a bad thing, but he doesn’t. It gave him room to learn and grow at a young age. He tries to see the positive in most situations. Stafford chooses to give people the benefit of a doubt and not judge them before he knows them.
His advice to anyone going through what he went through is to always have hope.
“I would just say never stop fighting and always just believe things are going to be OK,” he said.
People asked Stafford about his story during his Jan. 30 interview. He went before an audience of about 150 people that day. Each audience member had a copy of Stafford’s application, and read his essay. People in the audience asked him different questions, and he received scores from judges based on his answers.
One person talked to Stafford about his prior experience as a cross country runner, and that it must be popular at Pete Dye. Everybody laughed, given the rigorous nature of the course. There’s no offseason program that goes with caddying like there is with sports, but he makes sure to stay in shape because of how vigorous it is to walk at Pete Dye.
The person asked him about a time that running cross country helped him on the golf course. Stafford’s response was that golfers don’t always like waiting for the caddies to get on the golf cart before they start moving. He dealt with golfers taking off multiple times, and he had to run up a hill to catch up.
Stafford didn’t get as much hands-on experience his first year caddying. He received training and followed other caddies around with rounds being scarce in 2017. However, he got more experience the past two years, especially last summer. It took him that first year to get comfortable, and then he felt comfortable caddying after his first year.
“I think knowledge about golf and all that is good, but the most important thing you can have out on the golf course with your golfers is a good attitude and good communication, and just make them like you as a person,” he said.
He talks more as a caddie than he did when he first started, and his golf knowledge has improved, but he still wants to grow that knowledge as he heads to IU. Stafford thinks receiving the scholarship is a testament to his work ethic, always willing to go caddie regardless of what the weather is like. He credits Linne for her own work ethic rubbing off onto him.
“My mom has always been a hard worker in the things that she does, and always wants to be the best that she can be for other people, and I think I’ve gotten that from her,” Stafford said.
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