Lockport native Bobby Gikas earned an Evans Scholarship for the class of 2017 and parlayed it into some recent fame at the University of Illinois.
He is the Illini’s men’s basketball manager, a usually obscure position.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, the nationally ranked Illini are playing in near empty arenas with no bands or cheerleaders. So, Gikas provides some of the noise. He jumps around yelling encouragement to players and holds up signs. And he is getting noticed.
“Having Bobby bring that juice, I think that’s very important,” freshman player Andre Cubelo told the Champaign News-Gazette. “I love Bobby.”
Gikas not only inspires the Illini during pressure-packed games in Champaign, he has also been an inspiration at home.
It was Gikas's interest in and enthusiasm for caddying that earned him a coveted Evans Scholarship and helped inspire his younger siblings — triplets Tom, Katelyn and Krista — to follow in his footsteps.
The triplets, who caddy at Glen Oak Country Club in Glen Ellyn, joined 74 other student caddies from the Chicago area in earning Evans Scholarships, worth an estimated $120,000 in full-ride college money over four years.
“Bobby got us interested in golf and caddying,” Tom said. “And it got him places, so we stuck with it.”
Evans officials said triplets have received scholarships in the past, but it’s rare. A household with four Evans Scholars is also novel.
The three 17-year-olds have not selected a college yet, but they are hoping to head to the U. of I. Gikas is a senior at Illinois majoring in molecular and cellular biology, but his siblings are looking in different directions.
Krista is hoping to major in accounting. Katelyn is eyeing nursing. Tom is looking into business and finance.
The Evans Scholarship is named for Chicago amateur golfer Charles “Chick” Evans Jr., and is administered by the Glenview-based Western Golf Association. Criteria for winning the scholarship is based on a strong caddy record, excellent academics, demonstrated financial need and outstanding character. An estimated 300 scholarships were awarded across the country for the class of 2021.
“These deserving young students epitomize what our program has been about since its creation in 1930,” WGA Chairman Kevin Buggy said in a news release. “Their dedication, hard work and sacrifice is humbling, and we are honored to be able to help them pursue their dreams.”
There are 1,045 recipients enrolled in 19 universities throughout the country, and more than 11,320 have graduated as Evans Scholars since the program was founded. Some of the notable winners in the past include John Deere CEO Sam Allen, oil and gas magnate George Solich and Los Angeles NBC newscaster and anchor John Shubeck.
The Gikas foursome endured some tough times. Their father, Robert Sr., died at age 39 in January 2008. He was a football coach for the Homer Stallions and a Little League Baseball coach in Lockport.
“It was rough for a while,” Tom said. “But my mom (Nancy) is a saint, and we got through it.”
Robert and Bobby attended St. Rita High School in Chicago, and Tom is a senior there. Krista and Katelyn are seniors at Lockport Township High School and were on the golf team. They hope there is a track season this year so they can throw shot put and discus.
The three find highs and lows to being caddies.
“The best thing about caddying is meeting new members and interacting with them,” Katelyn said. “The worst thing is caddying in the cold and rain or having two bags at once.” Days also start at 7 a.m. and can last into the evening.
“The best is making good money and making friendships with the caddies and the members,” Krista added. “The worst is doubles (two rounds in one day) in the cold.”
Tom sees no downside to caddying but particularly likes being able to network.