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Out of Tiger's shadow

Begay dedicated to serving North America's indigenous communities

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Former PGA Tour pro Notah Begay hosts a clinic at Pine Ridge Tuesday morning.

SARAH TAYLOR / WINNIPEG FREE Enlarge Image

Former PGA Tour pro Notah Begay hosts a clinic at Pine Ridge Tuesday morning.

If being remembered as Tiger Woods' roommate at Stanford University is how it's going to be, Notah Begay is fine with that.

"Most people remember me from my senior year at Stanford, when Tiger Woods joined our team," Begay said as he introduced himself at a golf clinic for junior golfers Tuesday at Pine Ridge Golf Club. "But whenever Tiger gets too cocky -- and he has a lot to be cocky about -- I like to remind him that we won the national championship the year before he was on the team and came second when he was on the team."

The clinic came with other events, including a celebrity golf tournament and ball hockey game, all leading up to the PGA Tour Canada's Players Cup beginning on Thursday at Pine Ridge.

'Whenever Tiger gets too cocky -- and he has a lot to be cocky about -- I like to remind him that we won the national championship the year before he was on the team and came second when he was on the team'

-- Notah Begay

"We were just trying to get (the kids) to understand the basic fundamentals, not just about golf but just about being good role models," Begay said. "I think golfers are great role models and they conduct themselves, for the most part, with pretty good etiquette out on the golf course. You'll hear a few curse words, and with Tiger you'll probably hear a lot more curse words."

Begay, 41, is a professional golfer from New Mexico who spent time on the Canadian Tour before making the jump to the PGA Tour. In his rookie year he captured two tournament titles, a rarity for first-year pros. After winning two more tournaments in his sophomore year on the tour, Begay suffered a series of injuries that ended a potentially great career.

If he had to do it over again, however, he said he wouldn't do it any differently.

"I've been fortunate enough to have a lot of success in my career and I'm appreciative for that," said Begay, who is now an analyst for Golf Channel. "But it's not that success I'm most appreciative for, it's the people I met along the way."

"Bogey," sporting a jacket and hat with a traditional medicine wheel emblazoned on them, will also be remembered for another thing -- being one of the few First Nations pro golfers. Begay started a foundation to help Native American youth foster healthy lifestyles through golf and soccer.

"It's vital for me to represent my community, I'm very proud of my aboriginal heritage," he said. "I want to continue to promote that to young indigenous aboriginal children that they can achieve their dreams. It was my dream to play on the PGA Tour and it was never a dream of mine to be on television, but that was just kind of an added bonus."

And with the large aboriginal community in Winnipeg, Begay said it was one of the reasons he came, to show his support.

"It's always a reason," he said. "It's the reason I went to the Dakota Dunes Open last year and it's the reason I'm here, to continue to reach out to these large populations of aboriginals here in Canada. And just to continue to try and advocate the youth programs that are making a difference in their lives."

kyle.edwards@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2014 D5

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