Left: Khruanha “Ning” Naiyanan. Right: Sean McMinn.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

What could be more exciting in the game of golf than sinking a hole-in-one? When a caddy at the Longmeadow Country Club receives a full, four-year scholarship to one of America’s elite colleges and universities.

Khruanha “Ning” Naiyanan, a senior at Ludlow High School and caddy at the country club, has received a scholarship — covering tuition, room and board — from the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund. The fund awards millions of dollars in scholarships each year to students who have worked at Massachusetts golf courses.

“I was so glad. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders, and my family’s too. It was really good. My mom was so happy,” Naiyanan told Reminder Publishing.

Naiyanan was nominated for the scholarship by the Longmeadow Country Club, where she’s been a caddy for two years. The club is among many golf courses that raise money and donate it each year to the fund. Each club gets to submit nominees from their caddy program — but there is no guarantee their student-caddy will receive a scholarship on any given year.

“It’s a pretty tough process for the students to get through,” said Brian D. Keiser, the country club’s head golf professional. “We’re supporting youth that are interested in getting involved in the game of golf and how the game can benefit youth in the area. We’re pleased to have a program that has been around for so long.”

The scholarship fund was founded in 1949. Students can use the financing to attend one of about two dozen colleges and universities that have relationships with Ouimet. Naiyanan is still waiting to see which schools will accept her, but she is sure of her major — she wants to study biomedical engineering and hopes to become a surgeon.

She is dedicating her career to her father, who died five years ago, just before the family moved to America from Thailand.

“My dad died from cancer and I want to help other people like that. It will be very meaningful. I would always think of my father. He would be proud of me,” she said.

All Ouimet winners get some sort of funding, but only a select few receive an award that covers tuition, room and board. Over the years, Longmeadow Country Club has had a total of 117 scholars that have received some sort of financial help.

Keiser said Sean McMinn of Monson is only the second Longmeadow Country Club nominee to receive a full scholarship. McMinn caddies at the country club and is a business major at Miami University in Ohio.

“The scholarship has been incredibly helpful. If I didn’t get it, who knows what I’d be doing. I might be in college or I might just have a job. I have no idea,” he said. “This scholarship has given me the opportunity to go to a top school without the worries of a financial burden. It’s helping me succeed.”

According to the Ouimet’s website, the scholarship fund provides “… need-based college scholarships, which are renewable and worth an average of $30,000 over the course of four years, with some students receiving as much as $80,000.”

The organization also said it has awarded $49.85 million in scholarships to more than 6,630 men and women.

Keiser said caddying is more than a job — it is a chance for young men and women to make connections that will help them throughout their lives.

“Our club is willing and able to support this fund. Opening doors for men and women is a big piece of it,” he said.

McMinn agrees, saying being so immersed in the world of golf is helping him stay on course. “Just the amount of networking you can do. People really want to help you, they want to make sure you succeed.”

Staasi Heropoulos
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