A twist of fate led to a scholarship that changed Ed Santor’s life
Although he’s 52 years removed from high school graduation, Ed Santor can identify with those awaiting their first days of college.
In his case, however, it was a twist of fate during the summer of 1961 that set Santor down his career cart path.
Like many other teens in those days, Santor, now 70, caddied at Youngstown Country Club, following in the footsteps of his father, Andy, who also caddied at YCC as a youngster.
“In the 1950s, there weren’t a lot of jobs for young boys, so caddying was very big, especially because of the absence of golf carts,” he said.
From their East Side homes, Santor and his buddy, Jim Tavolario, hitchhiked to the club.
“If we were lucky to get a ‘loop,’ we’d come home with $3 or $4 for our efforts,” Santor said of their payment from a round of work.
At the time, caddie master Bob Burley asked Santor if he wanted to fill out a scholarship application through the Western Golf Association, of which YCC was a member.
“I had nothing to lose, so I submitted it and didn’t think much more about it until the end of my senior year when I was prepared to attend Kent State,” he said.
In early July, Santor got a call from a representative of the Evans Scholars program, asking if the Youngstowner was interested in a full scholarship to Northwestern University.
Santor didn’t hesitate to accept the offer before receiving assurance that paperwork would follow to complete the process.
“I thanked him, hung up the phone, then turned to my father and asked, ‘Where is Northwestern?’” he said. “He wasn’t sure, but he told me that Otto Graham was an All-American quarterback at Northwestern.”
Once the initial shock of the offer wore off and Santor was accepted to the Chicago area school — minus the $40 registration fee from Kent — a new stage began.
A contingent of friends and family was on hand at the Erie Terminal downtown at 11:30 p.m. when Santor boarded a train and traveled all night.
“I had a few dollars for a cab ride to the Evanston, Ill. campus, but when I got to the Evans Scholars house, no one greeted me,” he said. “A couple of upperclassmen inside pointed me to my room. I had no clue what came next. I was on my own for the first time and knew absolutely no one.”
Once settled in, Santor took advantage of the educational opportunity and eventually graduated.
“I wasn’t a real good high school golfer, but my caddie master knew that I was a 3.8 GPA student,” Santor said of his qualification for the scholarship, which was based on academics and financial need.
“My dad was a milkman with five kids and didn’t have money.”
Ed Santor’s brothers, Bill and Bob, both had golf scholarships to Ohio University and a nephew, Andy — Bill’s son who is named after Ed Santor’s father — is the current pro at Mill Creek.
“You didn’t have to play golf to get the scholarship,” Ed Santor said. “You only had to be a caddie at a sponsoring country club. Despite being from a family of golfers, I didn’t get serious about it until I was in my mid-30s.”
He never even tried out at Northwestern.
“You just had to keep your grades up and keep your nose clean and stay out of the dean’s office,” Santor said.
His scholarship was named in honor of Charles “Chick” Evans, who, in 1916, won the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur — the only golfer to achieve that feat.
Evans dropped out of Northwestern, yet became a successful businessman. He established the scholarship in 1930 to help two caddies. Now, 835 Evans Scholars chapters are at 19 different schools.
Another part of Santor’s story is that the Evans Scholar house — comparable to a fraternity house — was affectionately known on campus as “the Caddy Shack”
Santor said that the classic movie “Caddyshack” is loosely based on the Evans Scholars program.
“Obviously, the movie, for legal reasons has to deny this, but all the insiders know where the idea came from,” said Santor, whose classmate, Ed Murray, was the older brother of actor/comedian Bill Murray.
“Ed Murray was involved in the movie business as a banker, financial backer and adviser for ‘Caddyshack,’ ” Santor said. “The whole Murray family knew about the Evans Scholars program because Eddie also won the scholarship.
Another brother, Brian Doyle-Murray, who was also an actor with a smaller part, was also a caddie.”
Santor graduated from Northwestern in 1965 and Ed Murray followed in 1966.
“Caddyshack,” a 1980 American sports comedy, was directed by Harold Ramis and written by Doyle-Murray, Ramis and Doug Kenney. The movie also starred Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight.
Santor said that the movie used a fictitious college program and didn’t mention Chick Evans, but it was a clear reference to a college scholarship program for caddies.
Santor did some football coaching, then spent years in sales. He’s now a fifth-year boys golf coach at Fitch High in Austintown.
“I’m playing more golf now than ever because I practice right along with the team and challenge them to beat me and, quite honestly, I hope that they can,” he said.
The Falcons have improved every year, first going 0-16, then 4-12, followed by records of 8-8, then 12-4 last season.
He said that three seniors on the 2012 team have gone to golf academies.
“They got so wrapped up in golf that they would like to make it their careers,” Santor said of Matt Matasy in Orlando and Adam Catauro and Brian Basista in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
“I’m proud that they all started with me as freshmen and got better and, at this point, think that they want to be in the golf industry in some manner.”
The high school season starts Aug. 1.
Santor, who noted that Northwestern’s most famous alumnus is PGA Tour player Luke Donald, has a message for college-bound students: “It’s culture shock. It happens to any kid who goes away to school, but you adapt and figure out how to fit in and you manage.”