Golf is one of the most popular sports in the Valley, thanks to the warm weather and abundance of scenic courses scattered across the desert.
For GCU freshman Evan Johnson, though, it wasn’t exactly love at first swing.
“I really grew up around golf, and I actually hated it for a while. I just thought it was super boring,” Johnson said. “Then I moved out here, and I had a couple baseball buddies who started playing and got me into it, so I started playing. Then I realized I was decent at it, so I started playing tournament golf, and that’s what got me into caddying.”
Johnson, who moved to Glendale seven years ago from Kansas City, Missouri, received the Chick Evans Scholarship from the Western Golf Association’s Evans Scholars Foundation in March. The scholarship is awarded to roughly 300 caddies each year and covers the full costs of housing and tuition.
With only one season of caddying under his belt, however, Johnson didn’t get the scholarship on his first try.
“It was at the end of my first season of caddying, and the head pro of the golf course that I work at, Desert Forest, reached out to me and he said, ‘Hey, this could be a possibility. Why don’t you sign up?’” Johnson said. “So I went and signed up, and I actually got rejected my first year, and then, obviously, I reapplied and got it this year.”
He said the wait was worth it, though, when he finally got to celebrate the news with his family.
“I was, honestly, really speechless. It was a couple weeks ago now, but I still have no words to put into the feelings that I have,” Johnson said. “I got (the letter) late one night from FedEx, and I had to go wake up my parents, and we opened it, and we all started jumping for joy and yelling, hooting and hollering, and it was great.”
Just three years of caddying is all it took to give someone who grew up “hating” golf the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I just thought it would be something fun to do with a couple buddies and maybe make some money on the side,” Johnson said. “But now, I look at it through a whole different lens, and just trying to make great connections with people that can lead me further into life and teach me good lessons in life.”
Always looking to learn, he said making connections with people is the biggest lesson caddying has taught him.
“Really everything, from making connections with people to just learning how to be a better person, honestly,” Johnson said. “I’m really a people person, so I really like hanging out with new people, or the people I see on a regular basis, and just having a great time out on the course.”
Johnson is transferring this fall from GCU to the University of Kansas as an Evans Scholar to study sports management. He said he chose the school because his mother went to Kansas and he wanted to be closer to where he grew up.
“I’m a freshman now, at Grand Canyon, and I really didn’t know what I was going to want to do studies-wise going into it,” Johnson said. “I knew I wanted to do something in business and marketing and all that, and I’m interested in sports.
“So, I started looking at it and doing my research on just some of the opportunities that can arise from that, and I just thought sports management sounded the most fun and could be the best career path for me.”
With a new opportunity ahead of him — all because his friends got him to try a sport he couldn’t stand — Johnson said golf has more to offer than most people realize.
“Honestly, just try to get out and go play golf, it’s a great sport, it can lead you to some amazing opportunities like what I’m doing,” Johnson said. “I started in just the junior caddy program, and I think the only one that’s going on right now is Desert Forest in Carefree, Arizona.
“Try to reach out to them and maybe try to grab that opportunity, because it’s awesome. I’ve met some amazing people up there, and it’s just great.”