Greg Heiler of Farmington, a McQuaid student, was awarded a four-year college scholarship based on his work on the golf course

Yes, he’s seen the looks. He’s heard the laughter and he’s been asked to repeat himself.

Look and laugh all you want, though. Because at the end of the day, Greg Heiler has a four-year scholarship to college. And it’s all because of his ability on the golf course. As a caddy.

“Yeah, the other day at school a teacher asked about it and everyone in the class turned their head and looked,” said Heiler, a senior at McQuaid who lives in Farmington and attended St. Mary’s school in Canandaigua through the eighth grade. “There were a lot of surprised faces.”

And really, can you blame his classmates? We’ve all heard of scholarships for all the sports out there, but caddying? 

Heiler’s opportunity is through the Evans Scholarship via the Western Golf Association. Each year, an estimated 270 caddies in the United States receive the Evans Scholarship and this year, Heiler was one of two New Yorkers to be so named. The scholarship covers housing and tuition and is valued at more than $100,000 over four years and is awarded based on four criteria: strong caddie record, excellent academics, demonstrated financial need and outstanding character. 

Heiler will attend the University of Kansas to study physical therapy, and the goal of going to graduate school after that became that much easier considering his undergraduate studies won’t put much of a strain on the family finances.

And while it’s easy to wonder just how difficult it really is to be a caddy, it is much more than simply walking the course. When Heiler was a freshman at McQuaid, he heard about caddying opportunities and the Evans Scholarship. He followed up and was hired to caddy at Country Club of Rochester. 

The following summer, positions at Oak Hill were available and Heiler didn’t just get the job, he embraced it full-throttle. 

“I would be at Oak Hill every morning at 6:30 and living in Farmington, that meant I got up at 5,” he said. “To get the loops, golfers would call and the caddy master would set it all up. So if I was there at 6:30, I was the first one there and I’d get the loop.”

To date, Heiler has 115 loops at Oak Hill so he knows the course well. But he’s also got to know the golfer he’s bagging for, too, because shouldering a bag is just part of the job. Caddies must recognize which club best suits a golfer for the yardage that needs to be covered, and reading greens varies with the weather conditions so what worked yesterday may not work today. 

So yes, the mental game needs to be sharp but the physical fitness needs to be there, too. Loaded golf bags can weigh up to 30 pounds. So when you're tasked with lugging an extra 30 pounds in the brutal summer heat we saw in 2016, a regular four-hour round can feel like it's twice as long as it really is.

But Heiler wouldn’t be out there if he didn’t have a passion for the game, even if he is a self-admitted bad golfer.

“I like it a lot more now,” he said. “I was a really bad golfer when I started, but caddying made me want to pick up the clubs more and learn.”

And just like any ethical golfer who enforces the rules on himself when no one else is on the course with him, Heiler admits he had no idea or expectations of where golf would take him when he picked up his first bags as a caddy a few summers ago. But of course, it’s a welcome surprise.

“I just started caddying because every kid wants a little extra money in their pockets for the summer,” he said. 

He’s got a good point, there. And thanks to his dedication and perseverance, he’s now got some extra money to help play for his college education.

Chavez is sports editor at The Daily Messenger. Contact me at rchavez@messengerpostmedia.com or follow me @MPN_bchavez