SANTA ANA PUEBLO – An NFL Hall of Famer, a World Golf Hall of Famer and a probable future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer are all slated to play in the second annual Rio Grande Charity Slam on June 25-26 at the Santa Ana Golf Club – an event that Notah Begay III says benefits a hall of fame cause.
On Tuesday, Begay was back in his native Albuquerque area to promote the event, a fundraiser for his NB3 Foundation and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque.
“It’s such an important cause – helping the health of New Mexican children – and we’re making some gains after just one year of the tournament,” said Begay, an Albuquerque Academy and Stanford graduate who has won four times on the PGA Tour. “And the lineup we have this year is big-time.”
Former NFL great defensive end Chris Doleman, who was All-Pro eight times during a career that included stints with Minnesota, Atlanta and San Francisco, and ex-Major League Baseball star catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez have been added to the celebrity list this year.
Returning is golfer Johnny Miller, NBC’s lead golf analyst and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame who won 25 PGA Tour events and two majors.
Other celebrities who have committed are LPGA player and Golf Channel analyst Paige Mackenzie, national long drive champion Tim Burke, Tiger Woods’ swing consultant Chris Como, Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Veronica Lind and local comedian/actor Steven Michael Quezada.
Begay said he and Woods – his longtime pal and Stanford roommate – are working to bring the golf superstar to next year’s Slam.
“I don’t see any reason he won’t be here,” Begay, an analyst on Golf Channel, told the Journal on Tuesday. “It’s going to come down to scheduling. June’s not a great month for him, so we have to rework a few things. He supports this event and every other thing we do. It’s just a matter of working out the dates and giving him enough lead time to adjust his schedule.”
As for this year, Begay and David Simon – executive director of the JCC – said they hope to surpass the nearly $100,000 the event made last year. Both the JCC and NB3 Foundation split the profits equally.
“Our two organizations are very proud of (our) unique partnership,” Simon said. “We share a really strong commitment to improve the physical, mental and spiritual health and wellness of children of New Mexico.
“It’s unlike any other golf event in our state, and we’re so honored to be a part of it.”
Consolidated Solar Technologies LLC is the title sponsor of the event, which features a gala at the Hyatt Tamaya’s Cottonwood Pavilion on June 25 and a golf outing June 26 at the Santa Ana Golf Club. The latter begins with a free youth clinic from 8-10 a.m., followed by a VIP golf clinic from 11-noon.
The tournament has a 1 p.m. shotgun start.
Sponsorships vary from $5,000 to $20,000.
“I’m just thankful for the partnerships who have come on board. CST and the Santa Ana Golf Club and everyone who has helped,” said Begay, who lives in Dallas but said he is likely moving back to New Mexico. “People always talk about giving back, but most of the time people don’t come through. These guys have come through. There are no requirements; it’s personal choice.
“The important thing I would like to make people aware of is this wellness issue affects them. It’s not just coming and playing a golf tournament and playing with celebrities. It’s about elevating the incremental effects of poor health.”
Begay and Simon said both of their organizations focus heavily on youth health, which helps the entire state in the long run.
“Thirty-three percent of the kids in the country are technically classified as obese,” Begay said. “One in two kids born after the year 2000 in Indian country will attract diabetes. If you look at numbers, the average family spends 10 percent of their income on health care – and it’s not going down.
“The poorer the health, the greater weight it puts on our health system, and the more it leads to poor performance for kids in the classroom. All of those links are not conducive to building a better New Mexico.
“Yes, its a golf event, but we’re not asking for donations. Were asking for long-term investments that both of these organizations do.”
For more information on the Charity Slam, visit riograndecharityslam.com or call Clint Begay at 505-440-0409 or Veronica Petzold at 505-348-4449.