The much-anticipated $5.9 million renovation of the Canal Shores Golf course takes a swing at a new target: youth development.

An easement agreement would alter the look of the 10th hole and have a detrimental effect on the Canal Shores Golf Course, according to some officials. Credit: Bob Seidenberg

The 103-year old course, located in north Evanston and southeast Wilmette, is expanding youth programming through partnerships with First Tee Greater Chicago and the Western Golf Association to get more young people involved in the game. 

First Tee focuses on teaching life skills such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship to kids 7 to 18 through golf.  “We want to help engage youth in Evanston and Wilmette and the surrounding communities, specifically targeting youth who maybe wouldn’t otherwise have access to the game of golf,” said Lea Jesse, chief executive officer at First Tee.

The nonprofit has contributed $500,000 of the expected $5.9 million cost of the project, Jesse said. Canal Shores has raised $4 million toward the renovation.

First Tee conducts programs at Canal Shores in the spring, summer and fall. It’s also partnering with the Western Golf Association for continued youth engagement. The WGA, which runs a caddy program, offers the Evans Scholarship to high-achieving caddies with limited financial means.

The scholarship covers college tuition and housing, with about 1,100 Evans Scholars enrolled at 22 universities for the 2022-23 academic year. The scholarship has nearly 11,815 alum since 1930, when it was first introduced.

“We have a direct pipeline into the caddying program that the Western Golf Association offers. The overarching goal there would be that kids could, hopefully, become Evans scholars,” Jesse said.

The caddy program aims to begin with a class of 20 to 25 students, with a path to the scholarship, said John Kaczkowski, WGA president and chief executive officer.

“We’ll start the program small and hopefully we’ll grow that to something larger. But it really will depend on the interest level of young men and women from the surrounding community,” he said.

The Evanston Wilmette Golf Association, a nonprofit group, oversees the golf course. Canal Shores falls under the jurisdiction of three public bodies: the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which owns the land; and the City of Evanston and village of Wilmette, which lease the property from the district and sublease it to the Evanston Wilmette Golf Association.

The renovation timeline calls for closing the course for nearly 10 months, with a deadline to break ground June 1 and a phased-out scaling back through Aug. 1. Out of Space concerts are set to resume this summer but the course will be closed for tailgating and fall bird walks, according to Matt Rooney, president of the Evanston Wilmette Golf Association board.

While the revamp will improve the greens and fix drainage issues, youth development remains a key goal.

“We’re going to be giving people an opportunity here, to go to college on a scholarship, which we don’t have right now – which is a tremendous enhancement for us and for the community,” Rooney said.

Manan Bhavnani

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

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  1. Where can one see the plans? Various renderings on their web site feature only a few holes. I’m interested in hole 4 (to become hole 3?) just north of Isabella along Girard (in front of our house). Preliminary plans indicated moving the green and tee and removing trees and safety fence at the tee…