LOS ANGELES — On the day before Christmas, Ashley Martinez, a 17-year-old senior from Compton High, received a package at her family apartment. She knew the information inside could be a life-changing moment, so it took her 20 minutes to get up the courage to open it.
“I didn’t scream,” she said after reading the letter. “I stood there in shock and my eyes got watery because it was so big for me and my family.”
She received confirmation that she had won a $120,000 Evans Scholarship selected on the basis of strong caddie record, excellent grades, outstanding character and demonstrated financial need.
You heard that right — caddying. She spent three summers traveling to Chicago participating in the Western Golf Association Caddie Academy, which provides opportunities to academically promising young men and women from underprivileged areas. They caddie at local golf clubs each day.
The scholarship has been awarded since 1930. She knew nothing about golf or caddying when she started the program as a freshman. It was the first time she boarded a plane and traveled outside of California. Her father is a baker and her mother a cashier.
“I think the biggest lesson was learn from my mistakes,” she said. “The first year I made many mistakes because I didn’t know much about caddying. My teammates told me to keep my head high and learn not to make mistakes.”
She learned golf etiquette, how to not step into the line of a putter; how to rake a bunker; how to figure out the length of a shot from the fairway; how to know the difference between a five-iron and a seven-iron.
Martinez is a girls’ soccer player at Compton with a 4.1 grade-point average. With the COVID-19 pandemic, she hasn’t been able to play soccer in her senior year, so the Evans Scholarship has provided a huge emotional lift and also lessened the financial burden of a college education.
“It’s very life changing,” she said. “It takes stress from me and my family.”
Chris Rosado, a senior at Los Angeles Salesian, is another recipient of the $120,000 scholarship. Like Martinez, he received his package on Dec. 24 but waited until Christmas Day to open up the envelope so his aunt and grandmother, the people who raised him, could take part.
It was an emotional scene.
“There was some crying,” Rosado said. “My grandma for sure and my aunt. I may have shed a tear or two. Tears of joy.”
At 3, Rosado and his older sister went to live with his aunt. His father was in prison and his mother decided to let her sister raise them.
At Salesian, Rosado isn’t involved in sports. He’s more a scholar and participant in clubs. He knew nothing about golf when he joined the caddie program after hearing about it from his school principal.
“The toughest thing to learn was the position you had to be in,” he said. “We’re constantly moving and trying to assist.”
And there’s everyday lessons beyond golf he picked up.
“It was my first experience for any type of work,” he said. “Learning how to speak to people who are successful, learning team building with other caddies.”
He wants to become a lawyer.
Two other Southern California seniors also earned the scholarship, Alyssa Johnson from Compton and Suzette Rosales Solis from Compton Dominguez.
Martinez has become comfortable flying thanks to her visits to Chicago.
“I was expecting it to be scarier than it was,” she said.
She’ll be ready to go off to college this fall, thankful a decision to learn how to be a caddie has given her the opportunity of a lifetime.
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