Just not swinging clubs.
The Albuquerque native and four-time PGA Tour winner didn’t make it through Qualifying School in his attempt to rejoin the circuit as a player this season, but it didn’t take long for him to land another golf gig.
PGA Tour: Sony Open, first round, 5 p.m., GC
“I’m really excited about it,” said Begay, who starts his new profession today in Honolulu as a broadcaster for Golf Channel at the PGA Tour’s Sony Open at Waialae Country Club.
“It’s kind of a segue into another part of my career, and I’m utilizing everything that I’ve done in golf to provide entertainment to golf fans. I know so many players on a personal level. It’s very easy to talk about them and how they are playing on the course.”
Begay, 40, will be a walking course reporter for Golf Channel and its parent company, NBC.
An opening was created when Dottie Pepper, who joined the board of the PGA of America, retired from NBC last year to pursue programs geared toward junior golf.
“I worked with them a little last year, so some of the producers at Golf Channel and NBC had seen my work,” Begay told the Journal. “Dottie Pepper retired, so they were looking for someone to fill the gap and this gives me a great opportunity.”
Begay said he will work 18 events for NBC and 12 more for Golf Channel this season. He will provide on-course reports, along with Roger Maltbie, during tournaments, following one of the key groups. He will also be a contributor to Golf Channel’s daily news programs, including “Golf Central,” and will serve as an analyst for the network’s “Live From” news coverage at golf’s major championships.
Among the events he will cover are the Phoenix Open, The Players Championship, the U.S. Open and the President’s Cup.
“Notah has a wealth of knowledge, experience and a tremendous passion for the game of golf, and we are excited for him to be expanding his role within the NBC Sports Group,” Golf Channel executive producer Molly Solomon said in a news release. “He already has demonstrated a knack for honest and candid analysis during Golf Channel’s ‘Live From’ coverage, and our viewers can expect the same when he reports from the golf course.”
Begay made his debut as a studio analyst in 2010 at “Live From the Masters” news coverage. He has contributed to the network’s Masters and U.S. Open news coverage the past three years.
Begay, who started his golfing career following his father around at Albuquerque’s Ladera Golf Course, won the City Golf Championship four times and was a three-sport star at Albuquerque Academy. He later was a three-time All-America golfer at Stanford, becoming a teammate, roommate and close friend of Tiger Woods.
As a professional, Begay won the New Mexico Open in 1998, then won four PGA Tour events from 1999-2000 to burst on to the national scene.
Begay, the only full-blooded Native American to play on the PGA Tour, has used his celebrity to help Native American communities around the country, especially in New Mexico.
In 2005, he established the Notah Begay III Foundation, providing health and wellness education for Native American youth. He hosts the annual NB3 Challenge at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in upstate New York, a celebrity skins game that draws many of the top players from golf’s professional tours, benefitting his foundation.
He said he believes he is the first national Native American sportscaster.
“It’s another great talking point and another experience to relay to young kids about pursuing their education,” said Begay, who earned a degree in economics at Stanford and signed a two-year contract with NBC/Golf Channel. “Whether it’s in sports or broadcasting or whatever, it’s important to have a sound education. My Stanford degree really helped in teaching me the business side of my foundation.”
Begay, whose wife, Apryl, and two young children live in the Dallas area, said the new job will allow him to spend at least a couple of days each week with his family. He also said he’s not putting away his sticks for good. As a past champion, Begay is exempt to play in some PGA tournament events.
“(The network executives) are encouraging me to play, stay with it, practice and stay as sharp as I can,” Begay said. “I won’t get too far away from the competitive side of golf. I’ll play in a couple of (PGA) tournaments this year and stay close to it.”
Begay’s father, Notah II, said that he was surprised to hear the news about his son.
“He went from going to Q-School to all of a sudden going to TV,” Begay II said with a laugh. “It surprises me because he never went to college for that, but then again nothing he does surprises me.
“He’s accomplished so much with college, golf, business and his foundation. He really makes me proud. I’m just amazed at all he’s done with his life.”
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal