Good news comes in big packages.
The size and weight of the envelope alone told Matt Sledjeski what he needed to know: He had been named a recipient of a four-year golf caddie scholarship for college.
“When I picked it up out of the mail, I kind of knew,” Sledjeski, a senior on the Mattituck High School boys golf team, said. “It was life-changing, honestly.”
Sledjeski will attend Indiana University as a recipient of the Chick Evans Scholarship, which will cover tuition, books and fees. As part of the award, he will live with other scholarship winners in a so-called Scholarship House.
“It’s amazing,” the Cutchogue resident said. “There’s no other way to describe it.”
Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood, who also works as a caddie at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, said Sledjeski was the first person he thought of when he learned about the scholarship.
Chick Evans won both the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur in 1916 and remains the only golfer to win both championships in the same year. Because he wanted to retain his amateur status, Evans directed his golf winnings toward caddie scholarships administered by the Western Golf Association. Since 1930, when the first two scholars were enrolled, more than 10,400 men and women have graduated from college as Evans scholars, according to a fact sheet from the Western Golf Association.
The criteria for selection includes academics, financial need, caddie record, character and leadership. The average total value of the Evans scholarship exceeds $120,000 over four years. This year 275 full tuition and housing awards were granted. For the current academic year, 985 Evans scholars are enrolled at 18 universities, according to the Western Golf Association.
“When he became a finalist, he was overwhelmed,” Ellwood said. “I think he’s a little numb over the whole thing. He can’t believe it actually happened.”
Sledjeski is a caddie at National Golf Links, where a club member, Winston Hutchins, played a “huge role” in Sledjeski receiving the scholarship, said Ellwood.
As part of the application process, Sledjeski wrote an essay and participated in an interview on Park Avenue in Manhattan.
“I know when I was in there [for the interview], my heart was pounding,” Ellwood said. “He knocked it out of the ballpark in his interview.”
Sledjeski has previously worked at Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue and Laurel Links.
In addition to being acclaimed for his skills as a caddie, Sledjeski is quite a player, too. He was the No. 1 player for Mattituck, which won its fourth straight league championship last fall. Sledjeski had the lowest nine-hole average in Suffolk County League VII, 36.50, to go with a 9-0-1 record. He made All-League after receiving All-County recognition as a junior. He said he wants to try out for the Indiana golf team and study business.
Sledjeski said the magnitude of it all sunk in last week when he visited the Scholarship House in Indiana to see where he will be living for the next four years.
“I loved it,” he said. “It couldn’t have been better.”
Photo caption: The Mattituck boys golf team’s No. 1 player, Matt Sledjeski, has earned a four-year caddie scholarship to Indiana University. (Credit: courtesy photo)