A Life-Changing Golf Tournament

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CADDIES COME OUT ON TOP at this August’s BMW Championship at Castle Pines

 

By Jon Rizzi

 

PHOTO: Courtesy Castle Pines Golf Club

When the PGA Tour’s top 50 golfers descend on Castle Pines Golf Club for this August’s BMW Championship, it will no doubt stir memories of The International—the pioneering tournament that for 21 glorious weekends between 1986 and 2006 transformed the exclusive club into the epicenter of the golf universe.

PHOTO: Courtesy OF Castle Pines Golf Club

“The community is really going to miss this tournament,” club founder and chairman Jack A. Vickers understated when The International’s run—and its $20 million annual impact on the Denver metro economy—ended. Little did he know 18 years would pass before another professional golf championship would return to his club.

 

This time the impact will be even greater. One might even describe it as life changing.

 

That’s because the BMW Championship’s sole charitable beneficiary is the Chicago-based Evans Scholars Foundation, which provides full tuition and housing college scholarships to high-achieving youth caddies with limited financial means.

PHOTO: Courtesy OF Georgia Meysman-Sharpe

This fall alone, 340 caddies from around the nation—including 11 Coloradans—will enter college on a full-ride scholarship (valued at more than $125,000 for four years) at the University of Colorado or one of 23 other participating universities. Roughly 40 percent of the recipients are the first in their families to attend college.

 

Established in 1930 by the amateur champion Charles “Chick” Evans and administered by the Western Golf Association (WGA), the Evans Scholarship has produced 12,340 alumni and counts 1,130 students currently enrolled. Qualifying recipients must meet requirements in academics, caddying, character, leadership and financial need. Funding comes from more than 38,000 private individuals and proceeds from the BMW Championship—the corporate-sponsored version of the WGA’s 125-year-old Western Open.

PHOTO: BY Charles Cherney

Since becoming the BMW Championship in 2007, the tournament has contributed $50 million to the Evans Scholars Foundation, helping more than 3,300 caddies during that time.

 

CU boasts 57 current Evans Scholars and 548 alumni. Two of those alums, energy-industry magnates George and Geoff “Duffy” Solich—brothers from Colorado Springs who caddied at The Broadmoor Golf Club—co-founded the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy in 2012 at CommonGround Golf Course in Aurora. To date, the innovative program, which combines life and caddie skills, has expanded to clubs across the state and produced 45 Evans Scholars.

PHOTO: Courtesy OF Jovaun Salcido

Ten years ago, at Cherry Hills, George Solich chaired the first-ever BMW Championship in Colorado, raising $3.5 million for the Evans Scholarship. Becoming chairman and president of Castle Pines Golf Club after Jack Vickers’ death in 2018, George Solich helped attract the 2024 tournament, with Duffy Solich as the event’s chairman.

 

“We’ve packed the calendar with events at Castle Pines,” Duffy Solich says. Those include performances by country music artists Luke Bryant and Jordan Davis, a tribute to The International featuring past champions, and special appearances by, among others, ceremonial chairman Jack Nicklaus.

 

The championship, Duffy Solich promises, will also provide “touchpoints with the Scholars”—the “high-dollar” Evans Scholars Invitational on August 17 features Scholar caddies, and a Scholar will loop for every pro in the Gardner Heidrick Pro-Am on August 21.

PHOTO: Courtesy OF Georgia Meysman-Sharpe

In addition to eliminating the financial burden on her immigrant parents, current Scholar Ellie Rodriguez says pursing a scholarship through caddying taught her the value of networking. An integrated physiology and dance major, the aspiring physical therapist happened to caddie for Gil Boggs, the artistic director of the Colorado Ballet. One loop led to another—and to a shadowing arrangement with the ballet company’s physical therapist.

 

Evans Scholar Jovaun Salcido—a Solich Academy alumnus who caddied at Meridian and Castle Pines golf clubs—wants to carry for fellow Valor Christian graduate and 2023 U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark in the Pro-Am. Salcido, a finance and commercial real estate major at CU’s Leeds School of Business, is the son of single mom and brother to an autistic sister. As his family’s first collegian, he  says, “This opportunity is greater than me—I’ll be changing the future generations of my family.”

 

His classmate at the Evans Scholars House, Georgia Meysman-Sharpe, echoes similar sentiments. “I probably wouldn’t be in college if it wasn’t for the scholarship,” the ecology and evolutionary biology major admits. “And knowing that so many people contributed to my academic journey motivates me to go out and do something in the world.”

 

The BMW Championship is clearly about more than golf, and the Soliches know it. 

PHOTO: Courtesy Castle Pines Golf Club

“I’m completely honored to be the chairman,” Duffy Solich says, calling the beneficiaries-to-benefactors story of him and his kid brother, “like a fairytale.”

PHOTO: BY Charles Cherney

“The scholarship has been the most impactive thing in my life,” George Solich says. “It’s meant everything, and there’s no doubt that I want to keep doing the things I need to do to provide this opportunity for more kids that need it.”   

The BMW Championship takes place August 19-25, with the competitive rounds beginning August 22. For information and tickets, visit bmwchampionship.com.