Evan Neuhart grew up as a quiet kid, self-conscious of the way he spoke and, thus, lacking self-confidence.
Caddying changed everything.
When Neuhart started caddying at age 13 at Crystal Lake Country Club, it forced him to be outgoing. He had to work past his speech impediment to connect with club members so he could get more loops.
“In elementary school and middle school I had friends, but I wasn’t the most talkative kid,” Neuhart said. “I was just nice to everybody, and they liked me for it. Once I started caddying, I learned how to be confident in a social setting, and people started to want to listen to what I had to say.”
Neuhart, now a senior at Woodstock High School, became one of the best caddies at the club and recently received a prestigious Chick Evans Scholarship from the Western Golf Association, which covers four years of housing and tuition.
“I like all of the life lessons and people that you meet from caddying,” Neuhart said. “For me, personally, caddying taught me perseverence, determination and how to communicate in a professional setting.
“The people that I’ve met are people I have formed permanent connections with because most of them are engineers, which is what I want to major in. I can get their input and insight on the field I’m going to be in relatively soon.”
CLCC professional Dave Thompson was thrilled that Neuhart is the club’s latest Evans recipient.
“Evan is the greatest kid in the world,” Thompson said. “He really is. He does everything right and he’s so sweet. He’s dealt with a lot in his life. For what he did to get to where he is is incredible. Other kids would just have given up. It’s a tribute to his parents [Chris and Michele]. They’ve done a really great job.”
Chris Neuhart is the general manager at Crystal Woods Golf Club in Woodstock and is good friends with Thompson. Chris Neuhart thought caddying would be a worthwhile experience when Evan was old enough and pushed him to Thompson and CLCC.
“Evan had an advantage because he knew how to play golf a little bit, that helped him out,” Thompson said. “But it really doesn’t help unless you’re the right kid, and he’s just a special kid. He has the grades, he’s a fantastic caddie and he’s on my bag staff. He just works so hard, the members love him. He’s the right kid.”
Evan Neuhart was born with a cleft palate, where the roof of his mouth was not fully developed. He had to go through seven surgeries as an infant and was left with a bit of a speech impediment.
“That kind of led to not a lot of social confidence because I didn’t think people could understand what I was saying,” Neuhart said. “It was difficult [to overcome]. The caddying, I know this is going to sound cliché, but caddying was where I learned how to be confident and talk to people.”
Neuhart played golf on Woodstock’s team and currently plays on the basketball team. He enjoys the times when he and his father can play a round together, since Chris often is busy at Crystal Woods.
Evan Neuhart also sometimes plays golf with Michele and his twin brothers Brett and Trey.
In the summer of 2020, Neuhart began to realize he could be an Evans Scholar. It fueled his already strong work ethic even further.
“At the introduction [as caddies] they gave us an informational packet on what was available,” Neuhart said. “(2020) was the year I got out way more than usual. I got hired to the bag room. That was the year Mr. Thompson and others started saying, ‘You’re the next Evans Scholar.’
“I was kind of amazed. I don’t usually like being overly confident about a lot of things. When they said that it was kind of surprising. I also sort of knew if I kept working it was probably going to work out that way.”
Neuhart did not think there was any special recipe other than working his hardest. He was at the club six days a week last summer, sometimes for the entire day, either caddying or working in the bag room.
“I never complained, I just did what I needed to do,” he said. “You just have to work hard.”
Neuhart is accepted to Miami, Ohio, and is waiting to hear from other Evans schools Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin. Then, he will decide where he will attend college.
“That’s what we try to instill in all our kids, especially if they make it to the bag staff of the golf shop,” Thompson said. “We try to tell them what an advantage they have to be working hard, and he has it more than any other kid I’ve seen. He’s amazing. To go through all the operations he had to go through in his life to get to where he is … he’s going to be unstoppable.”