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Begay shares vision for improving native health

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Hometown golf hero Notah Begay shared his vision for improving the financial and physical well-being of New Mexicans, especially its native communities, during a talk Wednesday at the Albuquerque Economic Forum.

Begay — famous for excelling on championship golf teams at Albuquerque Academy and Stanford University, where he roomed with Tiger Woods — shared anecdotes and humorous asides with an overflow crowd at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

“This isn’t a place I thought I’d be standing when I picked up a pair of used golf clubs at the age of 6,” said Begay.

He attributed much of his success as an athlete and businessman to his friendship with State Investment Officer Steve Moise (who was in the audience), extra tutoring to help him grow academically and kind people who bought bus tickets so he could get to tournaments.

Now the first full-blooded Native American on the PGA Tour is teeing off an other efforts.

When Begay isn’t busy consulting on building golf courses all over the world and providing commentary on the NBC Golf Channel, he’s also leading the charge against Native American childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes through his NB3 Foundation. The national organization has partnered with the Johns Hopkins Center for Indian Health to get Native American youths active in sports, fitness and improving nutrition.

The issue “drastically impacts everyone in this room, because of the huge health care costs coming down the road” if the epidemic of childhood obesity isn’t dealt with more seriously, said Begay. A national NB3Fit Day recently helped create awareness and activity for native communities across the country. More than 10,000 young people took part in kickball, swimming and dancing for the inaugural event.

Begay also has teamed with accounting firm REDW to help build the firm’s business in Indian country. Begay is the brand ambassador for REDW, connecting the firm to accounting and financial reporting services for tribes and their enterprises.

The initiative also funds financial literacy courses. REDW, NB3 and a Junior Achievement flagship program has been launched at the Santa Fe Indian School with the goal of replicating the program at other Native American educational institutions.