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CADDIES WIN FREE RIDE TO COLLEGE

The birds are chirping on a hazy Monday afternoon on the third hole at the Country Club of Buffalo in Williamsville. Caddie Noah Rothschild walks ahead of Tom Leous, 75, and Jim Gallery, 50, as they amble down a small slope between the tee and the fairway to a row of trees on the right side, opposite a bunker.

"Noah, can I have my six-iron, please?" Leous asks.

Rothschild passes it to him as he wipes off Leous' driver and slips a cover over the club's head.

"One hundred-fifty is right behind you, sir," Rothschild says to Leous, after quickly checking the yardage.

It's quiet as Rothschild and Gallery watch Leous swing the club once, for practice.

Thwack!

The ball sails close to the green and the three watch as it lands just short.

"Nice shot, sir," says Rothschild.

While many high school students have summer jobs flipping burgers in hot restaurants or sorting clothes in stuffy retail stores, Noah Rothschild, 18, is outside caddying, trying to make this round of golf a good one for Leous and Gallery.

And while most high school students would be saving every penny of the $100 to $200 a week toward college, Rothschild doesn't have to worry about that.

He is one of two Western New York caddies to win a free ride to college this year through the Evans Scholars Program for caddies. The scholarships cover room and board and tuition for up to four years of college.

Named after Charles "Chick" Evans, the scholarship can be used at any of 18 participating universities, including Northwestern, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin. Although the program is little known in New York, the Evans Scholars Foundation has been sending caddies to college since 1930 and is the largest privately funded college scholarship program in the country.

Rothschild, a June graduate of Amherst High School, is going to Northwestern. The other local recipient, Jamy Archer, 18, who just graduated from Clarence High School, will go to Purdue in the fall.

All for carrying golf bags.

Well, it's not exactly that simple.

Applicants for the Evans Scholarship must be in the top 25 percent of their graduating class, show "outstanding personal character," demonstrate financial need and have an excellent caddie record for at least two years.

So what does it take to become a caddie?

Carrying a golfer's equipment may seem like a strange idea to someone who thinks of golf as a 30-minute game at Putt-Putt. Full-scale golf involves a lot more time, energy, patience -- and 13 more clubs.

Archer says she knew all along that she wanted to be a caddie. Her brother, Tom, 23, had been a caddie at the Brookfield Country Club in Clarence when he was in high school. She knew it was a nice job to have -- she could spend time outdoors and meet some interesting, prominent people.

Since her brother and three of her cousins had received caddie scholarships, she figured she had a good chance at one, too.

Archer says she gets up at 5:45 a.m. on weekends so she can be at Brookfield by 6:15. Most caddies work as "independent contractors," meaning they are paid by the golfers instead of the country club, and work is not always guaranteed. As the sun finally begins to peek out over the greens, they line up by the caddie house in the order they arrived.

Since a round of golf can last anywhere from 2 1/2 to five hours and usually involves about five miles of walking, most people can only caddie once a day.

"(Caddying) is more low-key for me," says Rothschild. Like many of the other caddies at the Country Club of Buffalo, caddying is not his only job -- he also designs Web sites and computer fonts.

Previous experience is not required for caddying. Nor is golfing skill. Both Archer and Rothschild say they have golfed, but neither claims to be good.

New caddies are required to read a handbook and watch an instructional video (don't think "Caddyshack"), but much of the training is on the job.

Rothschild says a golfer will usually tell you if you're doing something wrong, like talking when you're not supposed to, standing in the wrong place or not moving fast enough. It can be intimidating for new caddies, he says, because "some of the members want to help them out, but they'll express it in a way that sounds more like orders than suggestions."

"One thing that members don't always appreciate," says Rothschild, "is that you're trying to keep up with them when it's 80 degrees and sunny and you're carrying 20 to 40 pounds of excess baggage. You have to clean clubs, handle covers, clean the ball, replace divots, rake the traps, balance the bag and hand them their clubs. Coordination is a must."

Luckily the dress code is not disagreeable, Rothschild notes, as he points out his collared polo shirt and khaki shorts. Caddies are allowed to wear sneakers -- they have to stand all day and comfort is key.

Even though they are allowed to dress casually, caddies must be willing to show Victorian-era respect to club members.

Rothschild says that while many golfers are pleasant to be around, some "are the exact opposite."

He tells the story of a golfer who refused to even learn his name. At the 11th hole, Rothschild's unpleasant charge tossed him a dirty, old ball he found in the rough and barked "clean this, boy!"

Rothschild swallowed his pride and did as he was told, wiping the ball off with his damp towel, and placing it among the dozen others his golfer had brought along.

Obviously this kind of behavior is more of an exception than the rule.

Craig Coates, 19, of Tonawanda won an Evans scholarship last year and just finished his first year at Ohio State University. This summer, he's back at the Country Club of Buffalo. "I think it's a great program," he says. "I like caddying as a job and it was amazing to get a free ride to school."

Ohio State is one of 14 schools that have dorms specifically for Evans Scholars. "We all get along, and work together. We run a block watch and do stuff in the community, too. I had one of the best times of my life there so far," he adds.

Golf is a traditionally male-dominated pastime, and to a degree, so is caddying. Coates said that of 68 students living in the Evans Scholars program house at Ohio State, only four are female.

Even though there aren't that many girls who caddie, Jamy Archer says only a few members have had a hard time dealing with the fact that she is female.

She remembers one member who told her "Little girls wear patent leather shoes and lace; they do not carry golf bags." Nevertheless, she said the field is open to female caddies.

Jim Gallery, caddie superintendent at the Country Club of Buffalo, agreed. He said the job is open to almost anyone, but there is an informal age limit of at least 14 or 15.

"We've found that the younger they are, the tougher it is for them to concentrate (for the entire round)," said Gallery.

However, because of all the walking and interaction with the club members, it's also a job that requires a certain degree of physical fitness and composure, said Gallery.

The area's three largest caddie programs are at the Country Club of Buffalo, Park Country Club and Brookfield Country Club. Hiring has already been done for this season, but if you're interested in working next summer, they usually accept applications at the beginning of April.

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