U of D Jesuit senior, Haiti native gets ‘life-changing’ scholarship as a golf caddy

University of Detroit Jesuit senior Johnathan Paul, who grew up in a poor family in the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, can now attend college after being named a recipient of an Evans Scholarship, a full four-year grant for golf caddies. (Photos by Wright Wilson | Special to the Detroit Catholic)

Jonathan Paul one of 31 students in Michigan to receive Evans Scholarship, worth estimated $120K, to attend Michigan State University

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — While growing up in impoverished Haiti, Jonathan Paul had never even seen golf. 

But now, it’s a game-changer: it’s going to help the University of Detroit Jesuit senior get a college education.

Paul is one of 31 students from Michigan — five from Detroit-area Catholic League high schools — that have been awarded the Evans Scholarship, a full four-year grant for golf caddies covering college tuition and housing. The scholarship, estimated at $120,000 over four years, will enable Paul to attend Michigan State University to study mechanical engineering.

“It was a pretty big surprise; it was the most exciting thing in my life when I heard that I was a finalist,” Paul said. “Everyone should know that it’s life-changing. It gives the poor people a chance to go to college to change their life. A lot of successful people studied after winning the Evans Scholarship, and then they became complete winners.”

The program was established in 1930 by Charles “Chick” Evans, an amateur golfer from Chicago. In the 90 years since, it has become the nation’s largest scholarship program for caddies. This year, a record 1,010 caddies are enrolled as Evans Scholars at 18 universities across the country.

While Evans Scholarship winner Johnathan Paul says it’s been “pretty fun” to be a caddie, he also jokes his favorite hole is the 18th, “because that means the loop is over.”

Funds come mostly from contributions by 32,500 golfers who are members of the Evans Scholars Par Club program. Evans Scholars Alumni donate more than $14 million annually. 

Scholarship winners are selected based on four main criteria: a strong caddie record, excellent academics, outstanding character and financial need.

“That was the biggest one for me because I’m from Haiti, from a poor family, and I’m here trying to follow my dream to help my family,” said Paul, who assists players at the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms.

In his application essay, Paul explained that The Evans Scholarship would allow him to pursue his dreams and break the cycle of poverty.

“My dream is to get a college degree that will allow me to get a job and to help my family in Haiti and everyone else in need,” he wrote. “Currently, I am the only hope my family has of having a better future. My family’s living condition is really poor in Haiti. Without the Evans Scholarship, I might have been forced to leave the U.S. If I had to go back to Haiti because I could not afford to pay for college, it would be a great shame. I would be forced to live the life my family is living.”

Paul first came to the United States as a freshman, but didn’t begin caddying until his sophomore year.

“I had to focus on school,” he said. “English is not my first language — it is my fifth language — and learning it was quite hard, so I could not do anything else. My sophomore year it was getting better, so I started caddying, because it was my hope to get the Evans Scholarship and it was my only hope to go to college.”

At first, Paul said, it not easy to wake up early in the morning to walk the course with a heavy bag of clubs. But he came to like his job.

Jonathan Paul, who first came to the United States from Haiti in ninth grade, says caddying at the Country Club of Detroit has helped him open up to people and become more social.

“Junior year I started opening up to people, I made a lot of friends,” he said. “I’d be waiting in the caddy shack two hours to get a loop, but it didn’t seem that long, because I would be talking to people, playing cards. It’s been pretty fun caddying.”

Paul will be joined at MSU by several other incoming freshmen with Evans Scholarships, including Brendan Jones, from University-Liggett, a caddy at Lochmoor Club in Grosse Pointe Woods.

Meanwhile, Michael Argenta of U-D Jesuit (Meadowbrook Country Club), Isabel Lopez of Detroit Cristo Rey (Detroit Golf Club) and Townsend Meredith of Liggett (Country Club of Detroit) will attend the University of Michigan.

“These young men and women have shown excellence in the classroom and in their communities, as well as on the golf course,” Western Golf Association president and CEO John Kaczkowski said in a press release. “We welcome them to the Evans Scholars family.”

“Each of these deserving Evans Scholars epitomizes what our program has been about since its creation in 1930,” added WGA chairman Kevin Buggy. “Their dedication, hard work and sacrifice is humbling, and we are honored to be able to help them pursue their dreams.”

“It turns out that getting the Evans Scholarship was part of God’s plan for me,” Paul said. “As far back as I can trace my family lineage, I will be the second person in my family to go to college — thanks to God’s intervention through the Evans Scholarship.”