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Evans Scholar Frank Yocum has local knowledge that supasses TOUR pros at BMW Championship

6 Min Read

Beyond the Ropes

Evans Scholar Frank Yocum has local knowledge that supasses TOUR pros at BMW Championship

Spent Wednesday pro-am inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth and caddie Michael Greller

    Written by Helen Ross @helen_pgatour

    Evans Scholar caddies for Jordan Spieth at BMW Championship

    Most fans who go to a PGA TOUR event like this week’s BMW Championship have a favorite player to watch. Maybe even get an autograph, too.

    Frank Yocum is no different. He’s hoping to see major champions like Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas, among others, play Wilmington Country Club in the second event of the FedExCup Playoffs.

    But he won’t just be watching the laser-like approach shots or the delicate chips the pros hit.

    “I want to almost take notes on how their caddies go about everything,” Yocum explains. “How they take reads on the greens, how they give advice, whether it be the club or how they factor in the wind.

    “And I want to also learn how quickly they get to know a course, because coming in most of them don't know Wilmington.”

    Yocum does, though. For the past five years he has worked as a caddie at Wilmington CC, which is making its FedExCup and PGA TOUR debut this week. He estimates he’s got about 600 rounds looping there under his belt.

    That course knowledge should make him a valuable resource on Wednesday when he walks inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth and his caddie Michael Greller during the BMW Championship pro-am.

    Yocum is one of the 1,100 current Evans Scholars chosen by the Western Golf Association, which is the beneficiary of the tournament. The scholarships, which are valued at $125,000, are awarded to hard-working young caddies with financial need and cover full tuition and housing for four years. The program, which was founded in 1930, has 11,815 alumni.

    “It was a life-changing moment,” Yocum says of opening the letter with the good news.

    The WGA’s Caddie Academy also stands to benefit from the PGA TOUR’s Charity Challenge, a season-long fantasy competition to help distribute the $100 million the TOUR has earmarked for charities supporting diversity, equity and inclusion over the next 10 years. The tournament leading the competition, the Korn Ferry Tour’s NV5 Invitational presented by Old National Bank, supports the Academy, as does the BMW Championship, and a win would be worth $100,000.

    Yocum, who attends Penn State and is studying accounting, grew up in a bustling household. He is a quadruplet with two sisters, Claire and Judy, who are identical, and a brother, Jake, who is fraternal. The girls are attending Penn State, as well, majoring in speech pathology and supply chain management, respectively, while Jake is enrolled at Temple to study business management.

    “It's crazy sometimes, but it's also really great growing up with four people going through the same thing at the same time,” Yocum says. “You always have someone that you can relate with and make that connection. And you always have someone you can count on.

    “It's been great having two sisters and a brother. It's kind of the perfect mix.”

    The four were born 31 weeks prematurely and the medical bills were high. Their mother Claire had to go to Arizona to see a specialist, and the babies spent a month in the hospital after they were born. The family was able to return home to Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania, just across the Delaware border, shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

    “Imagine getting four kids through all of the security right after 9/11,” Yocum says. “… And then growing up, we had so many different people in and out of the house, just trying to help take care of us because it's a real hassle.”

    Putting four kids through college at the same time was another financial challenge That’s why the Platt Evans Scholarship was such a bonus for Yocum, who applied for the grant at the urging of members at Wilmington CC, who also provided letters of recommendation. He had to write an essay and the finalists were then interviewed by WGA representatives.

    When the letter came, Yocum’s parents, Frank and Claire, held onto it for several days. The big reveal happened on a day when Yocum got home after officiating a basketball game and found some friends, his siblings and his grandparents gathered there.

    “I walked in the house, had some normal conversations and then they put the package in front of me,” Yocum recalls. “And without knowing whether I got it or not, they just said, all right, let’s see.

    “Luckily, I had received the Evans Scholarship and everyone kind of gave me hugs and went crazy.”

    Yocum, who played baseball and basketball in high school and calls himself a “striving” golfer, is one of about 100 caddies at Wilmington registered on its app. He has several regular bags and is usually booked at least a week in advance.

    Caddying has allowed Yocum to bolster his communication skills. He’s learned to be comfortable and confident talking with older members, as well as people with diverse backgrounds and interests. He’s learned the importance of commitment to the job – caddying on hot days or rainy ones when he might rather do something else.

    “Another thing is adaptation because all golfers are not the same and you have to figure out what that golfer wants,” he says. “And I think that can go into life because not every person's the same. So, you have to figure out how you're going to please a specific person and more specifically into business, how you're trying to please the client.

    “That's the adaptation part of it that you have to learn. I think learning these skills early has helped me so much and will help me in the professional world as well.”

    Yocum caddied for John Carney, the governor of Delaware, at the BMW Championship media day. It was a miserable and rainy day in June but Carney, Yocum and company forged on.

    “We were one of the only groups that played the complete 18 holes non-stop,” Yocum says. “We played right through the heavy downpour and made our way in. So, I think that was probably the worst weather-wise I've been out there.”

    Yocum also remembers the way he felt when he saw Wilmington CC on Aug. 8, 2020 after a tornado roared through the property. More than 300 trees were uprooted, some falling on greens, and every bunker on the North and South courses was destroyed.

    “It was so detrimental, but everyone did a great job rallying back and getting the course in it,” Yocum says. “It was a complete mess. I didn't think that it could ever rebound from it, but in a short time they got it back into great shape.”

    And Yocum’s best day on a golf course? Well, there are too many to single out. In addition to the governor, he has caddied for club champions at Wilmington, including Buddy Marucci, a two-time Walker Cup captain and the 2008 U.S. Senior Amateur champion.

    “I've had the opportunity to do a lot of different, great things with caddying,” Yocum says. “So, I can't say that there's one best day because there's been so many great days.”

    Something tells us Wednesday with Spieth and Greller will make that list, too.

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