Savings bonds were popular gifts for children growing up in the 1980s and 90s. A government note lacked the pizzazz of an iridescent Hot Wheels car or a glossy Cabbage Patch Kids Doll. But, as is the case with most things in life, the substance of the former possessed staying power that long outlasted the temporary gratification contained within the style of the latter.
Cars and dolls lost their luster after a couple of years and became bound for a box in the basement. Meanwhile, savings bonds matured over time becoming more profitable with each flip of the calendar.
It's unknown whether Sam Wadle received any savings bonds at his eighth-grade graduation party inside the clubhouse at Long Beach Country Club. But that day, he met a man there whose mentorship would prove more valuable than any Series EE Bond available from the Treasury Department.
On Monday, a four-year relationship that began with an innocent conversation realized into an Evans Scholarship - a full housing and college tuition college grant - at Purdue University.
Both Wadle and Dick McNamee recall that first conversation in near-identical detail.
"Someone said, 'Hey, there's a kid sitting over there who's a darn good kid.' So I went over and asked (Sam) if he had good grades, and he said he did. And he said he was, at the time, one of nine children, so I figured there would be financial need. Well, already there were two of the four requirements fulfilled," McNamee, who happened to be in the clubhouse that day, said.
"I was literally in the middle of taking a bite of food and (Dick) came up to me and asked about my grades. I didn't know who he was at the time. A couple of minutes later he said, 'We're going to train you to become a caddy.' I said, 'Okay'," Wadle recalls.
McNamee runs the caddy program at Long Beach Country Club that has served as a training ground for dozens of high-school students across LaPorte County. McNamee keeps his eyes peeled for soon-to-be freshmen who meet criteria similar to that of Wadle - high-performing students that are community-centric and could use a financial boost toward a college education.
While thousands of college scholarships are out there for the taking, the Evans Scholarship represents a diamond in the rough of the financial puzzle. Estimated at $120,000 over four years, Evans Scholars are vetted and interviewed following the application process.
Wadle's January 30th interview at Hillcrest Country Club in Indianapolis was one of 20 conducted nationwide to distill an applicant pool of over 1,000 down to 285 - 13 of which were awarded to Indiana students. He was one of three selected from the Long Beach Country Club's caddy program. LBCC was the only club throughout the state that mentored more than two, a bold testament to both the program and its pupils.
McNamee's link to the Western Golf Association's Evans Scholarship Foundation traces back more than 40 years. A product of Catholic education in the Chicagoland area, McNamee applied for the scholarship in 1979 before attending University of Illinois. While he wasn't chosen as a finalist, he pledged his support to the program over fraternity life.
"I've known the impact (the program) has had on people. And the effects are felt even after college. When Evans Scholars go to apply for jobs, some employers don't even need to do a reference check," McNamee remarked.
As part of the program, Wadle completed the prerequisite 125 loops, or, rounds at the course. He joined shortly after his impromptu meeting with McNamee and has trained at LBCC every summer since.
Wadle joins Jim Thomas ('18) as the second Marquette student to receive the prestigious award in the last three years. Thomas, who sent both McNamee and Wadle congratulatory texts upon hearing the news, is currently in his second year at Purdue.
It hopes to signal a trend for both the Wadle and Marquette families.
Sam's younger sisters, Maria ('22) and Elizabeth ('23), are both up-and-comers in the same caddy program that just awarded their older brother a life-changing, six-figure grant.