Youthful soccer players of all ages convened Saturday to fill the PHS football stadium. They listened attentively as famed golfer Notah Begay talked about his life and what to expect during the fun-filled Soccer & Healthy Living Day Camp.
The free event was sponsored by the Osage Nation for all youth between the ages of 5-14 in partnership with the Notah Begay III Foundation (NB3F) Soccer Program.
Begay formed the non-profit NB3F in 2005. Its primary goal is to provide health and wellness education to Native American youth in the form of soccer and golf programs. The soccer camps are taught by NB3’s health and wellness team along with local Native health organizations. During the course of the event, players are taught the value of proper hydration, fruits and vegetables, and exercise.
When asked to expound on the purpose of his foundation, Began responded, “I think a lot of young Native American kids are looking for good role models to advocate for building our communities, advocate for education and advocate for heighten health awareness. I think those are three things that are extremely important. They all eventually lead to the basic idea — the mind, the body, and the spirit. That’s what we try to address through the NB3F — take care of your body, understand nutrition, good health and fitness; graduate from college; and spiritually, stay in touch with your community.”
“Those are things that are very simple as the way we perceive life but often very difficult to adhere to. We come to give them (the youth) ideas and expose them to different things. Sports have always been a great connection — especially here in Oklahoma with OU and OSU and other great colleges. You see people who, away from the field, don’t always get along. They fight, they bicker – whether its politics or social issues.” Begay then went onto to give an analogy, “At an OU or OSU game where everyone is pulling for the same team, these issues do not exist. If we can learn to compromise through our children and work together to provide them with more opportunities, then I think we can do that amongst ourselves as adults.”
As Begay began addressing the youthful attendees, he held a golf club. “This golf club is why I am able to be here today to oversee today’s soccer camp,” said Begay. He explained how, as a young boy of eight, he and his brother accompanied their Dad when he played golf. Finding himself intrigued by the game, Begay began picking up basic equipment at garage sales. He wasn’t selective about his equipment which meant his first golf shoes were ladies. Begay said that didn’t matter because they worked. Later, during summer breaks, Begay talked the local golf club into letting him do general maintenance work from 5:30-7:30 each morning. In exchange, he was allowed to practice the rest of the day at no cost. By the time Begay was a teenager, he had become an accomplished golfer.
Begay also talked about the consequences of bad choices. He shared how, at the age of 27, he made a bad choice and was arrested the second time for drinking while driving. He was arrested after driving into a parked car while leaving an Albuquerque bar. During his court appearance, Begay owed up to his mistake by taking took full responsibility for his actions. His punishment was to serve 364 days in jail with all but seven days suspended.
Born on September 14, 1972, in Albuquerque, NM, Notah Ryan Begay III is of Navajo/Pueblo descent and the only full-blooded American Indian on the PGA tour. In the 1990s, Begay said a benefactor who had never seen him play golf but liked his spirit, determination and work ethics, offered him a full scholarship to Stanford University. At Stanford, Began became a three-time All American, member of Stanford’s 1994 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship team and was a teammate of Tiger Woods. “Tiger and I share a lot of good stores,” said Begay. “Tiger is a remarkable athlete for what he has done for golfing.” Begay turned professional in 1995. Most recently, he joined NBC Sports and Golf Channel. He will be a walking course reporter at the Waialua Country Club in Kapalua, Hawaii.