Some of golf's biggest names - Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam - were among those that participated in a fundraising event for a foundation that assists Native American youth. More than $500,000 was raised during the fourth annual Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation Challenge, which was held on Aug. 31.
Eight well-known golfers took part in the one-day event, staged at the Atunyote Golf Club, located at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y. The event also attracted about 5,000 spectators. This marked a substantial increase from previous years, which drew between 2,500-3,000 fans.
"It's a world-class event," said Crystal Echo Hawk, the director of the NB3 Foundation. "I don't think there is anything like it in Indian country."
Begay, the only Native American (Navajo/Pueblo) on the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Tour, started his foundation in 2005. His mission is to fight childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes among Native youth. Begay was thrilled with the success of this year's challenge.
"It turned out even better than I had anticipated," he said. "And I have some pretty high standards to begin with." Begay said he was pleasantly surprised with the number of fans who took in the action.
"We had a tremendous turnout," he said. "We had 5,000 people to watch eight golfers."
Besides Woods and Begay, the two other male competitors were PGA Tour players Rickie Fowler and Hunter Mahan. Each of them was paired up with a female player in a best ball competition.
Sorenstam, arguably the greatest women's golfer of all time, was the biggest attraction among the female players. The Swedish-born Sorenstam won 72 Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Tour events, before retiring in 2008.
Also taking part in this year's event were three current LPGA players; Cristie Kerr, Natalie Gulbis and Suzann Pettersen. Mahan and Kerr won the event by one stroke, over the duo of Sorenstam and Fowler.
Begay was also rather happy to see the extensive media coverage of the event, which will only help to raise awareness of his foundation. This included a live interview Begay and Woods took part in on CNN, the morning of the event.
He said he's glad the challenge is not simply seen as a sports event but also a news story which demonstrates that childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes has become an epidemic among Native youth.
Begay is hoping his annual event will continue to grow.
"We will start to look for more tribal partners to get involved with this initiative," he said.
Besides getting others involved, Echo Hawk is unsure how to upgrade the golf aspects of the event. It's rather difficult for a fundraising event to attract such big-name athletes as Woods and Sorenstam.
"We'll be looking to improve the event but I don't know how," she said. "Notah though is extremely good at putting things together."