Korn Ferry Tour's NV5 Invitational comes to the Glen Club

  • Northwestern's Jonathan Kriarakis discusses his early life as a caddie during the NV5 Invitational media day May 9 in Glenview. The tournament is Thursday to Sunday at the Glen Club in Glenview.

    Northwestern's Jonathan Kriarakis discusses his early life as a caddie during the NV5 Invitational media day May 9 in Glenview. The tournament is Thursday to Sunday at the Glen Club in Glenview. Courtesy of Charles Cherney/WGA

 
 
Updated 5/23/2022 6:28 PM

Shortly after Jonathan Kriarakis found out about this job called "caddying" he showed up at Flossmoor Golf Club hoping to get his first loop.

Kriarakis -- in eighth grade at the time -- didn't get out that day, which was no surprise as many youngsters must pay their dues before earning their bags.

 

Day 2 was no different. Neither was Day 3, 13, 30, 40 or 50.

Incredibly, Kriarakis never gave up. He showed up at 6 a.m. and left at 6 p.m. every single day.

Finally, after two months, Kriarakis' name was called and he was off and walking.

"I remember looking back thanking God that I didn't quit," said Kriarakis, who will be a junior at Northwestern and is one of more than 1,000 Evans Scholars attending 21 universities across the country. "I sacrificed a lot of time waiting in that bag room waiting for a loop.

"The patience, humility and confidence that it taught me ... were absolutely worth it, and I would without hesitation do it all over again."

Kriarakis was at the Glen Club earlier this month to help promote the NV5 Invitational, which is a Korn Ferry Tour event that will be played from Thursday through Sunday. The Korn Ferry Tour is where dozens of pros cut their teeth attempting to join the PGA Tour.

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The past three champions of this event -- Cameron Young, Curtis Thompson and Scottie Scheffler -- are all on the big tour now. Scheffler, who won the Masters in April, is the No. 1 player in the world. Young has five top-3 finishes this season, including a T-3 at the PGA Championship on Sunday.

The great thing about the NV5 Invite is that it's free to attend -- and all of the proceeds benefit the Evans Scholars Foundation, which awards full tuition and housing scholarships to deserving youth caddies. Gates open at 6:30 a.m. each day. The trophy ceremony is 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

A few local players to follow include Wheaton's Tee-K Kelly, Deerfield's Vince India, Lake Forest's Brad Hopfinger and Highwood's Patrick Flavin.

The event is expected to raise in excess of $100,000 for the Evans Scholars program.

While Kriarakis' story is pretty incredible -- it's extremely rare to have to wait so long for your first loop -- it is nonetheless easy for thousands of young caddies to relate. It takes a special kind of perseverance to stick it out day after day and week after week, sometimes not knowing if you'll make it out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Then, even when you're on the course, a zillion things are thrown your way. Country club members are generally patient with young men and women, but it can still be a humbling experience in the beginning.

After a while, confidence soars. Friends are made. And many kids fall in love with the job.

For those who work extremely hard -- and whose families come from limited means -- there is also the opportunity to earn the Evans Scholarship.

Kriarakis grew up in a small house in Humboldt Park with his mom, but she moved them to Flossmoor so he could caddie.

After that first loop, Kriarakis caddied 61 more times that summer.

"My mother, who was eventually diagnosed with cancer and sustained multiple injuries traveling, still worked tirelessly so that I could caddie and focus on school," Kriarakis said. "I remember being in second period English when my phone rang and I saw it was my mom. I raised my hand and pretended to go to the bathroom.

"I remember my mom's voice choking as she read me the letter that I had earned the Evans Scholarship. Even today I'm realizing the blessing it is to have the scholarship.

"It means more than financial freedom. It means more than a college education. It means that hardworking parents and students are both valued for their work ethic and recognized for their resilience."

As the vice president of new scholars at Northwestern, Kriarakis welcomes newly awarded recipients to the campus. He plans to pursue a career in commercial real estate.

"When we talk about changing lives of (hundreds of) individuals, that number grows exponentially when you talk about their parents, their grandparents, their aunts, their uncles, their teachers -- and their siblings -- as they are all inspired by the perseverance that our Evans Scholars show," said Mike Bruni, the Western Golf Association's tournament chairman. "When you read about an Evans Scholar you hear about their story. When you talk to an Evans Scholar you get inspired by the story."

To donate to the Evans Scholars Foundation visit wgaesf.org.

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