Charles “Chick” Evans was the first man to win the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur in the same year. Using seven hickory-shafted clubs, Evans led the 1916 Open at Minikahda from start to finish, shooting a record score of 286 that would stand for 20 years.
Ten weeks later, at Merion, he won the U.S. Amateur by beating Bob Gardner, the defending champion, in the final. The only other golfer in history to win these two tournaments in the same year was Bobby Jones, who did it in 1930, the year of his Grand Slam.
Gene Sarazen said, “In his day, Chick Evans was a finer iron-player than any of the professionals.” Henry Cotton called Evans “undoubtedly the greatest amateur golfer of his generation.” And Jones, after losing to Evans in match play, said, “Chick is one of the gamest and best competitive golfers the world ever saw.”
"There is a vast difference between practicing golf shots and playing the game of golf."
Evans also endured despite an ongoing battle with his putting stroke. He competed in every Amateur from 1907 through 1962, winning again in 1920, defeating Francis Ouimet in the final. He was medalist in 1909, advanced to the second round in 1955 against a field that included 15-year-old Jack Nicklaus, was a finalist on three other occasions and holds the record for most matches won (57).
His overall record was just phenomenal: eight Western Amateurs, a Western Open, a North and South, a French Amateur, and a runner-up finish in the 1914 Open, where he lost by a stroke to Walter Hagen.
Yet Evans never felt that his achievements were given their just due. According to historians, he resented Ouimet and Jerome Travers because they were the first two amateurs to win the Open, and later in his career, he fell into the shadow cast by Jones. It was unfortunate because Evans had a 15-year run in which he was as good as any golfer in the world, professional or amateur.
Evans had some peculiar philosophies. “I made a rule never to swing a golf club except to hit a golf ball,” he said, “for I had learned that one could swing beautifully when the ball wasn’t there, and poorly when it was.” He also had his own theory on practice. “Most people seem to consider playing as practice and that is one of the reasons that they never emerge from the heap,” he said. “There is a vast difference between practicing golf shots and playing the game of golf.”
Evans’ legacy involves more than tournament golf. His name is synonymous with the Western Golf Association, and the institution of the Evans Scholars Foundation. This idea was born after Evans won the Open and the Amateur in 1916. Rather than turn professional, Evans decided to take the $5,000 offered to him for making golf instructional phonograph records and establish a golf scholarship fund for caddies. Through funds generated by the Western Open and private donations, more than 219 scholarships were awarded to caddies in 2003 who met the high academic requirements and had a proven need for financial aid. Since 1930, more than 9,000 Evans Scholars Fund recipients had graduated from colleges.
Evans was himself a caddy at Edgewater Golf Club while growing up on Chicago’s North Side, and it was that background which helped mold him into one of the game’s most popular players. Eventually, his bitterness toward Ouimet, Travers and Jones subsided, and he developed into the type of golfer who joked with people in the gallery, remembered names and faces, and knew how to smile, win or lose.