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Outside the Lines

Native Americans

Notah Begay, the only full-blooded Native American on the PGA Tour, draws upon a rich heritage.

A community debates whether to abandon the Native American nickname of its high school teams.

Former NHL coach Ted Nolan wants an all-native national hockey squad separate from Canada's team.


Chat wrap: PGA golfer Notah Begay


 Outside the Lines
Notah Begay says that basketball, not golf, is the sport of choice on many reservations.
Standard | Cable Modem

Tuesday, June 3
Notah Begay's long walk
Tom Farrey

The question, the basic reason Notah Begay was sitting before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in a wood-paneled room in the nation's capital, was simple but oddly personal, as if he were some federal program to be studied: How did this happen?

Notah Begay
PGA Tour Rookie of the Year candidate Notah Begay has come far since playing with Tiger Woods at Stanford.

How -- did -- Notah Begay -- happen?

Senators do not ask this question of Derek Jeter or Brett Favre or even Tiger Woods, far more luminous sports celebrities, because none of their lives are, as the invite last May to 485 Russell Senate Office Building would suggest, as important to the nation's affairs as that of Begay, child of the reservation, creation of the public links, graduate of Stanford University, registered member of the Navajo Nation and son of Mother Earth.

Indeed, what cosmic set of circumstances could have conspired to not only lift Begay above the despair, alcoholism and lack of education that have claimed other Native American youth, but place him in an orbit -- the privileged PGA Tour, where he is up for top rookie honors -- that is so far removed from the consciousness of the reservation that Begay may as well be an alien to his own people?

Begay settled into a hard-backed chair and without reading from notes, in the same intuitive way he plays the game, began to share his story.

"At age 6," Begay told the committee, "I fell in love with golf. I would save up money to buy practice balls. But soon my urge to practice exceeded my piggy bank ... "

From their elevated, horseshoe-shaped bench, the senators nodded in appreciation. But in that chamber 1,650 miles from his home, there was only so much they could understand of whose victory this was -- who really deserved credit for this concoction called Notah Begay III. They may as well have been the Japanese a half-century ago in Iwo Jima, listening in on the communications of the U.S. Marines, unable to break a code based on the Navajo language and conveyed by his grandfather, the original Notah Begay.

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