SANTA ANA PUEBLO – He's always been able to close in style, and Saturday was no exception for Albuquerque native Notah Begay III.
In front of about 150 fans, Begay drove the green on the 335-yard par 4, then drained a 50-foot eagle putt to finish the 54-hole New Mexico Open at Santa Ana Golf Club.
Begay finished in a tie for 30th at 5-under 208, but all the fans on hand were following him, not the leaders who were on another end of the course.
"Isn't that the way it should be?" Begay said with a huge laugh. "But I've earned my keep on (the PGA) Tour and in golf. I've tried to give as much back to the game and youth sports as possible. I think people appreciate that here. I love New Mexico, I love the people, and I'll always come back if I have a chance."
The 38-year-old Begay, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, is an Albuquerque Academy graduate who learned the game at Ladera Golf Course. He hadn't played in a New Mexico Open in the Albuquerque area since winning it 1998.
He chose to play in the Open instead of a Nationwide Tour event in Boise, Idaho, that had a much larger purse. On a day he won $725, he said he made a great choice.
"You look back on all the things, from the state championships in basketball and golf (at Academy) to the (national golf) championship at Stanford," Begay says. "The trophies are great, but it's the people, the relationships, the friendships I have with coaches and fans and all the people who have supported me through the years that are the most meaningful."
Begay, who lives in the Dallas area with wife, Apryl, and their two kids, says knee surgery this year has slowed him down. He hopes to give the PGA Tour another shot come January.