Alzberta Nei participated as a caddie in The Western Golf Association Caddie Academy.

— WGA Photo/Charles Cherney

It’s always nice when you can get involved with sports and learn something about the game. Moreover, it’s great when you can pick up this knowledge and experience while earning a full scholarship to college.

Two Philadelphia high school students Alzberta Nei and Brooklyn Gabriel were two of 90 female students from around the country that participated in The Western Golf Association Caddie Academy. Nei and Gabriel had a chance to work at local golf and country clubs on Chicago’s North Shore. Nei and Gabriel spent seven weeks caddying while residing at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest, Ill.

The program gives students an opportunity to learn the benefits of being a golf caddie along with gaining life lessons from successful adults. More than 90 percent of those who participate in the program are minority students from underserved communities.

Those students who complete the three-year program are eligible for the Evans Scholarship which provides a full, four-year tuition and housing grant to one of the top colleges and universities. Nei and Gabriel, both from Cristo Rey Philadelphia High School in North Philadelphia, have completed the program. They will receive full scholarships to attend Penn State University.

“When I first got the scholarship I was excited. Everything that I did for the past four years really paid off,” Nei said. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to attend Penn State on a full tuition scholarship.

“I think this is a great opportunity for me and my family because I honestly didn’t know whether or not I could pay for college. This opportunity being in the program has really given me a good chance of furthering myself and my education.”

Gabriel feels the scholarship will make a big difference in her future. It’s also a big help to her family.

“When I found I got the scholarship, I was very excited,” Gabriel said. “I felt very proud of myself pushing through the past year at the academy. I knew especially for my family it would be a great opportunity and such a great help for my mom. I felt very relieved that the Evans Scholarship will help me go to college.”

In addition to receiving a scholarship for their efforts, Nei and Gabriel got a chance to learn fundamentals of caddying, which is a big part of golf.

“It’s really a way for people who weren’t normally able to caddie and receive a full ride with this program is a gateway for them to get an education being exposed to the game of golf,” Nei said. “I definitely feel like this program is breaking down barriers in golf.”

“I had been interested in getting lessons next summer,” Gabriel said. “So, I can get better not only in caddying, but golf as well.”

The program started in 2012 and is currently in its seventh year. Since the Caddie Academy has been around, 35 participants have been awarded Evans Scholarships. The organization has added a boys program in the Chicago area.

“The program we started certainly introduced more girls to the program,” said Mike Maher, senior director, education and oversees the Caddie Academy. “Because of the success of the Caddie Academy we’ve had a need to begin a boys program. So, we’ve piloted that last year. We are in the second year of the boys’ program.”

And this summer, they started a new chapter called the Eastern Caddie Academy in Philadelphia area. This is the first year of the program with local students caddying local country clubs at Whitemarsh Valley and Aronimink, which happens to be the site of the 2018 BMW Championship next month.

For more information go to www.gaesf.org or www.wgacaddieacademy.org

dhunt@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5719

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