LAKE BLUFF, Ill. –- Donald D. Johnson, who led the Western Golf Association and its Evans Scholars Foundation for more than two decades, died Thursday at his home, according to the WGA. He was 77.
Johnson served as the WGA’s chief executive officer from 1988 until his retirement in 2009. During his tenure, some 4,000 young men and women received college educations from the Evans Scholars caddie program. The WGA, based in Golf, Ill., benefits from the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship and administrates two of amateur golf’s premier summer events, the Western Amateur and the Western Junior.
“Don enjoyed a lifelong love of, and respect for, the game of golf,” John Kaczkowski, the WGA’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “He was dedicated to giving back to the game through his work with our scholarships and championships, and he clearly has succeeded.”
Under Johnson’s leadership, Kaczkowski said the WGA reversed its fiscal troubles and built a $45 million endowment, plus debt-free ownership of 14 Evans Scholars houses.
“Don’s focus on building a firm financial base for our Evans Scholars program afforded thousands of young men and women the opportunity to earn their college degrees on his watch,” Kaczkowski said. “In the face of ever-increasing tuition costs, and with the added expense of constructing and maintaining our scholarship houses, we continued to provide full funding for more than 800 Evans Scholarships annually. That is truly a noteworthy achievement.”
Johnson, a native of Racine, Wis., won the 1953 Wisconsin State Golf Association Junior Championship. He held bachelor’s and law degrees from Wisconsin and practiced law in Madison. Johnson was inducted into the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame in 2008.
Johnson is survived by his wife, Jane; a son, Benjamin; daughters Mindy Carter of Madison, Wis., and Tally Nathan of Paradise Valley, Ariz.; and four grandchildren.
Memorials may be made to the Evans Scholars Foundation, One Briar Road, Golf, Ill., 60029, or online at http://www.wgaesf.org.
A memorial service is being planned for early June.