PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Notah Begay, winner of two tournaments last year, will be skipping the Doral Ryder Open in Miami the first week in March. His schedule will go like this:
AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am this week.
Buick Invitational at San Diego next week.
Nissan Open at Los Angeles the week after.
Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship at La Costa the week after that.
This last appearance wasn't on his schedule at the beginning of the season. But he asked for it. And he got it. Doral will have to wait until next year.
Two weeks ago, Begay was leaving a bar in his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M., after spending a night with friends. He had the wheel of his Ford Expedition in his hands and a few beers in his bloodstream. A '67 Jaguar was parked in the lot. Begay ran into it, denting the fender and setting in motion events that would lead to a week in jail, a week that begins March 1.
Begay was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. He volunteered to the prosecuting attorney that he had a similar conviction in Phoenix in 1995. He told the attorney, and eventually the judge, that he wanted to be held accountable for his actions, that he wanted to be made an example. The judge sentenced him to seven days in jail, a $1,000 fine, 48 hours of community service and a year without consumption of alcohol. Notah Begay, burgeoning PGA Tour player, former Stanford teammate of Tiger Woods, winner of two tournaments in his rookie season, proud American Indian, said fine.
''You are looking at someone that is going to jail,'' said Begay Monday evening as the light faded on the first tee of the Bayonet Course in Seaside. Those looking at him were young children and their parents who had come to a golf clinic conducted by Begay. It was a clinic that was scheduled before his conviction, and one he wouldn't think of canceling because of it.
''I was picked up for drunk driving. Do you know what drunk driving is?''
The small group responded affirmatively in a muted chorus.
''I made a bad decision. I'm telling you from experience ... just say no. I would hate to see any of you go through what I have to go through.''
He is going through this ordeal because he believed it was the right thing to do. ''I didn't want preferential treatment because of who I knew or who I was,'' Begay said. ''I told them about (the prior conviction) because I felt I had a responsibility to my fans, to Native Americans. I couldn't stand up in front of a judge and be a hypocrite.''
Golf requires of its players an extraordinary amount of personal accountability compared with other sports. Officials may be called in to provide rulings in case of ambiguity or dispute, but the concept of cheating is offensive to those who play the game at the highest level. Personal integrity is built into the game and often rubs off on those who play it.
''Notah is a great example of what our game is about,'' Tom Lehman said. ''He did something wrong, and he is willing to take the consequences. You can't condone drinking and driving, but you've got to commend Notah the way he has handled himself.''
Begay is looking for a counselor in Albuquerque to determine whether he has a drinking problem. ''I'm confident there's no serious issue,'' Begay said. ''But I don't want to make that judgment about myself. I want a professional to do that.''
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.