By Gabriela Carroll
A Southampton High School graduate received the prestigious Long Island Evans Scholarship, a full-tuition award given to exceptional golf caddies. Brigham Hancock, one of this year’s award recipients, is a caddy at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, and will matriculate at the University of Notre Dame in the fall.
Hancock started his job as a caddie at Shinnecock Hills his freshman year of high school, and has continued to caddie every summer since. He heard about the scholarship from his college counselors.
“I heard about it probably about a year after I started caddying, but I’d never really considered it,” Hancock said. “When I was applying to schools, my college counselor saw my list of schools and she saw that Notre Dame was at the top, and I was applying to a few other Evans schools, so she said why not? That’s really the only reason I applied.”
Criteria for the Long Island Evans Scholarship includes academic prowess, caddying ability, and financial need. The Long Island Evans Scholarship was founded at Northwestern University, and now partners with 18 universities, including Notre Dame. On Long Island, the Evans Scholars Foundation partners with the Long Island Caddie Scholarship to provide tuition and housing for its students.
Hancock was awarded the scholarship after completing an application, with recommendations from Shinnecock Hills, and an interview in front of a large panel in New York City, after being named a finalist.
“The interview part is kind of a blur,” Hancock said. “Going into the city, the whole interview process. It was so crazy to me just being in front of so many people and having to just explain my life.”
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club is one of the world’s most famous courses, and the host of numerous PGA events, including the 2018 U.S. Open. Caddying for golfers at Shinnecock Hills required a skilled caddie, Hancock said, so the learning curve was steep.
“People are coming in from all over the world to play that golf course,” said Richard Plum, a Shinnecock Hills member involved with club-level scholarships. “Brigham needs to know his stuff, and he does, and he makes it fun. It’s not an easy thing to do. So people are coming in with such high expectations, but he really adds to their experience.”
Starting off as a caddie, Hancock carried one bag for a player as they went through the course. Shinnecock Hills is home to many professional and more experienced caddies, so Hancock said he felt he had to pay his dues, especially when he was first starting out.
As his skills improved, he began to carry multiple bags and to help guide the golfers on the course. “That’s when I really started to form relationships with golfers and started to learn how to give them good advice and become a part of the team on the court,” Hancock said.
One of Hancock’s greatest skills as a caddy is his interest in connecting with everyone he golfs with and making it a fun experience no matter the skill level of the golfer, according to Plum.
“He really wants to partake with the group,” Plum said. “It’s a fun job for everybody when Adam Scott comes through, or Rickie Fowler, and you get to caddy for them. But to take old Richard Plum out there around the golf course and try and get excited to watch me knock the ball in the trees, in the hay, for four-and-a-half-hours, it;s hard to buckle down. He buckles down and has a laugh and makes it fun and tries to inspire you.”
Coming into college in the midst of a pandemic, Hancock said the Evans Scholar community at Notre Dame has helped make the experience less daunting.
“It’s gonna be harder to network this year and make friends because of all the social distancing guidelines and everyone’s fear of the coronavirus in general, but you already have this network,” Hancock said. “We’ve done Zoom meetings, GroupMe group chats, it’s already like a second family at the school. I think it’s really helpful. It gives me a leg up, socially.”
A Shinnecock Hills member he golfed with encouraged him to apply to Notre Dame, according to Hancock, which motivated him to research the school and learn more about it.
Hancock said he picked Notre Dame over other Evans institutions because of its academic reputation and the strong alumni network and community. “If an alumna sees me wearing Notre Dame stuff in public, I always get a conversation,” he said.
The terms of the Long Island Evans Scholarship require recipients to continue to caddie while away from school, which Hancock said he considered a positive. He said his biggest growth as a caddy has come in the past two years, as he’s become more passionate about golf and a more skilled golfer.
Being at Shinnecock Hills requires a higher level of golf knowledge and skill, according to Hancock, and he believes that the club pushing him to become a better caddie and golfer helped set him apart as an Evans Scholar candidate.
“The biggest part of my caddy experience has been just being at Shinnecock,” Hancock said. “There are things that you have to know at Shinnecock that you don’t have to know at any other course. It’s an intense learning curve, but it was a lot more fun than a lesser known course might have been. You have to give such nuanced advice to these golfers, just because it’s Shinnecock.”