SANTA ANA PUEBLO — When Notah Begay III spoke to friends and supporters of the New Mexico Grande Slam event on Thursday morning, he couldn’t resist taking a jab at those who have not experienced his level of play.
Begay, a four-time PGA Tour winner who will make his Champions Tour debut next week, said he’s thankful for all that golf has given to him.
“It’s a great game,” Begay said at Santa Ana Golf Club. “You guys are all here because you love to play. It challenges us each and every day, kind of like life. And some days are better than others. For you, they are a little bit worse than mine, but we go out there and we have a great time.”
Perhaps Begay was just showing his personality of being so down to earth, or maybe displaying his competitive side, as he’ll play in the Constellation Furyk & Friends Champions Tour event at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida, Oct. 7-9.
Begay made sure to thank all the sponsors for the fifth annual New Mexico Grande Slam that benefits local nonprofits supporting New Mexico children. The event was in its first year back since 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Begay is hopeful he’ll be ready to compete next week, but a busy schedule has made it challenging. He has his work with NBC Sports and the Golf Channel, a recent Junior Presidents Cup championship as captain and this week’s events for the charity golf tournament.
“Everybody keeps putting a lot of pressure on me,” Begay said. “I’m going to be feeling it next week. Hopefully I’ll pass the test.”
Begay, a Presidents Cup winner with the U.S. team in 2000, said he enjoyed being the first Native American captain of the Junior Presidents Cup team.
“I didn’t know quite what to expect,” said Begay, who starred in basketball and golf at Albuquerque Academy. “Twelve of the finest young golfers in this country going out there to compete. It was a wonderful experience. … Thankfully I have two young kids of my own, so a lot of their behaviors didn’t really surprise me. Both good and bad. It was truly an honor to be out there representing myself, my family, my community, New Mexico and the Native American community.”
Begay called on a friend to join him in Jacoby Ellsbury, a former major league baseball player for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
“I’ve known Notah for a while now,” Ellsbury said. “I know the work he does for the Native American community and his community. He puts a lot of work into it. A lot of people look up to him. When he gave me the call to come out here, it was a no-doubter. I showed up to the event (on Wednesday) to support the golf course.”
Ellsbury, who was teammates with Aaron Judge, said he texted congratulations to the Yankee slugger who tied Rogers Maris’ single-season home-run mark of 61 on Wednesday night.
“I’m happy for him,” Ellsbury said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s a great athlete. He could’ve played any sport he wanted to.”
As for all the talk if Judge’s home-run feats should be considered more legitimate than others, Ellsbury said, “that’s for another conversation.”