Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Can you believe Notah Begay III was offered a scholarship to Stanford without then-coach Wally Goodwin ever seeing him hit a golf ball?
It’s true, says Begay, who helped lead the Cardinal to a national championship in 1994 and was a three-time All-American at Stanford.
Goodwin, instead, watched Begay play basketball at the Pit and win a state title with Albuquerque Academy, Begay said. Begay, with his athleticism and all-out effort, was too good to pass up.
“Junior golf was an amazing way to learn the game in a competitive arena,” said Begay, who won four events on the PGA Tour and is now an analyst for the Golf Channel. “Junior golf prepared me for golf at Stanford, but more exposure as a junior would have been better.”
Begay said he is now trying to create more opportunities for juniors to gain national exposure. He has started the Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship, touting that its mission is to provide an opportunity for every junior golfer in the country to compete in a top-level junior golf national event that will be aired on the Golf Channel. It is the first junior golf national championship to be broadcast on the Golf Channel, Begay said.
“I really feel like there’s some hidden talent in the U.S.,” Begay said. “There are some juniors just looking for an opportunity to play their way into possibly earning a college scholarship, to being seen by a college coach.”
Registration is underway at www.jgnc.org to play at 160 local qualifiers nationwide. Juniors, boys and girls ages 14-18, can play up to three qualifiers to try to make it to the regional level. There are 17 regional sites, where the competition is expected to be at a high level, Begay said. The championship site and date is expected to be announced by the end of the month.
The Albuquerque qualifier is scheduled for June 22 at Santa Ana Golf Club. Santa Fe has a qualifier on July 16 at the Towa Golf Club at Buffalo Thunder Resort.
Begay has been promoting the junior golf national championship on social media with the hashtag: #getNOTAHced.
He has a short video on the website that shows photos of his junior golf playing days, along with his narrating his inspiration.
“I’m Notah Begay the third,” he says. “And, before I was a winner on the PGA Tour; before I was teaming with Tiger Woods to win the Presidents Cup; before I was shooting 59; and, before I was winning a national championship for Stanford University, I was trying to find a way to get noticed. Now I want to support junior golf through the Notah Begay III Junior Golf National Championship, airing on the Golf Channel. Here, every boy and girl will have a chance to play before every coach in America.”
Begay first started playing golf when he was 6. It wasn’t too long after that he became a fixture at Ladera Golf Course. It became evident he loved the game, and he was very good at it.
In addition to providing exposure for juniors, he believes the qualifiers will help juniors realize more about what the game has to offer.
“I think one of three things will happen for them,” Begay said. “They’re going to realize they love golf and try to play their way to the national championship. Or, they will miss on the qualifying and realize they want to get better. Or, they will find out that golf is probably not for them and they can go on to something else.”