Far Hills, N.J. - Charles “Chick” Evans was born on July 18, 1890 in Indianapolis, Ind. Several years later his family moved to the Chicago area, where at the age of 8 Evans was introduced to golf as a caddie at the Edgewater Golf Club located on Chicago’s North side. It was from these beginnings that Evans not only became one of the most successful amateur players in the game’s history, but also one of the most generous.
Evans captured the 1910 Western Open, becoming the first amateur to win the competition. In 1911 he won the French Amateur, the North and South, and the Chicago Amateur - premier amateur events at the time. In 1912 and 1914 he won the Western Amateur. Also in 1914, he had a second-place finish in the U.S. Open, where he placed one stroke behind Walter Hagen.
It was two years later, in 1916, that Evans enjoyed his greatest success as a player. First, he won the U.S. Open Championship at Minikahda by three strokes over Jock Hutchison, then several weeks later he claimed the U.S. Amateur Championship at Merion Cricket Club, ousting defending champion Robert Gardner, 4 and 3.
Evans is one of only two players to win both the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur in the same year; the other being Bob Jones as part of his 1930 Grand Slam. Evans won his second U.S. Amateur Championship in 1920 at the Engineers Country Club, where he defeated Francis Ouimet, 7 and 6, in the final.
Evans was a member of three USA Walker Cup teams (1922, 1924, and 1928) and competed in a record 50 consecutive U.S. Amateurs. In 1909 he was medalist in the U.S. Amateur; 46 years later, in the same championship, at the age of 65, he advanced to the second round in a field that included 15-year-old Jack Nicklaus. Evans bridged the gap from one generation of players to the next.
The Midwesterner was held in the highest regard by his contemporaries.
“In his day, Chick Evans was a finer iron-player than any of the professionals,” said Gene Sarazen.
Henry Cotton called Evans “undoubtedly the greatest amateur golfer of his generation.” And Jones, after losing to Evans in match play, said “Chick is one of the gamest and best competitive golfers the world ever saw.”
While he enjoyed a successful playing career, Evans’ most important contribution to the game, and to society, took place off of the course.
After winning the 1916 U.S. Open, Evans recorded a series of instructional records, the first of its kind, for the Brunswick Record Company. But had he accepted the royalties from the records’ sales, he would have had to forfeit his amateur status. His mother suggested that he could put the money to good use by creating a scholarship foundation for caddies.
Evans said: “My mother wouldn’t think of accepting my money unless we could arrange it to be trusted to furnish educations for deserving qualified caddies. … She pointed out that the money came from golf and thus should go back into golf. It was all her dream—her idea.”
Evans lobbied the Western Golf Association, an organization formed in 1899 to promote the game in the Midwest and beyond, to support the program. In 1929 the WGA agreed to oversee the funds, bringing to life the Evans Scholars Foundation.
In 1930, Harold Fink and Jim McGinnis were named the first recipients of the scholarship, enrolling at Northwestern University, the same school where Evans had studied. Until World War II, all Evans Scholars attended Northwestern, living in the Evans Scholars Chapter House.
After Evans’ initial investment had been exhausted, the WGA continued to raise funds for the program. Chapter Houses were formed at 13 more universities: Colorado, Indiana, Illinois, Marquette, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin. There are currently more than 800 scholars at 18 universities across the nation. More than 8,000 caddies have benefitted from Evans’ idea, with the support of nearly 100,000 donors who give annually to fund the program. It is one of the nation’s largest scholarship organizations.
In 1960 Evans was awarded the USGA’s Bob Jones Award, the Association’s highest honor given in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf. Evans died in 1979, leaving behind a legacy as one of the game’s greatest champions and most generous personalities.
Evans is one of the best represented champions in the USGA Museum’s collection. On display is a copy of “Chick Evans Golf Secrets,” some of Chick’s championship medals, equipment used by Evans, and his personal good luck charm - an ivory Billiken.
Robert Alvarez is the collections manager of the USGA Museum. E-mail him with questions or comments at RAlvarez@usga.org.