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Woods wins for the kids

VERONA, N.Y. – Tiger Woods may have won half the skins at the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge Aug. 24, but the real winner was the foundation, which raised at least $750,000.

All of the proceeds, including the money won by the golfers – $230,000 by Woods, $200,000 by Camilo Villegas, $70,000 by Begay III – and ticket sales went to the charity.

A check for $750,000 from the Oneida Indian Nation and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians was presented to Begay III by Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter.

Tiger Woods won $230,000 in skins for the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge held Monday, Aug. 24 at Atunyote Golf Club.

According to Wilson Pipestem, the foundation’s chairman of the board, the money will go toward programming that aims to prevent Type 2 diabetes and obesity in Native American youth.

“A lot of these kids facing this epidemic don’t have the knowledge – 80 percent of his (Begay III) kids don’t know it’s preventable,” Woods said before the tournament. “Days like today will certainly help in that.”

Woods feels golf is the perfect sport to teach kids to increase physical activity.

“You can shoot hoops, but you can’t play basketball your entire life; you can play golf.”

Begay III called his competitors “champions on the course and off the course,” because they volunteered their day to raise money for his cause.

“We’re here for charity; we’re here for Notah and what he’s trying to do,” Villegas said.

Mike Weir agreed, saying “all our minds are on his foundation,” though he said they all wanted to play well and be competitive.

Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter presented a $750,000 check to Notah Begay III for his foundation that works to prevent Type 2 diabetes and obesity in Native American youth.

Early on, it was tournament host Begay III who drew some of the loudest cheers with chips on the first and third hole. It was near the middle of the round, when the group halved five consecutive holes starting with the ninth, that the intensity of play began to pick up. A second shot from 75 yards out and a 10-foot birdie putt by Villegas broke the game open, giving him six skins and $180,000 with a single shot on the 14th – bringing the players’ comments about timing before the tournament to fruition.

Now trailing, Woods birdied three consecutive holes following Villegas’ move to the top, reclaiming the lead with only the 18th left to play – proving his timing is “impeccable” as Begay III said before the tournament.

With Villegas and Woods playing to seal up the victory, it was fitting that Begay III, not wanting to get shut out at his own tournament, played a great chip from the fringe and followed with a birdie putt to take the final skin and $70,000. Weir was not able to collect any skins during the tournament.

While Notah Begay II hoped his son would win, he was glad he didn’t get shut out like last year. Either way, he is proud of what his son is accomplishing for Native American youth.

“It’s a dream come true in a lot of ways because it’s for Native kids,” he said. “He wants to make sure all the programs he establishes have a very good foundation. Most programs are put on from the outside; 99 percent of them fail. There’s not the heart in the program; you have to have that heart, that willingness.”

The day before the tournament, the NB3 foundation signed an agreement with Johns Hopkins University to evaluate the foundation’s programs.

Long-time friends Tiger Woods and Notah Begay III after the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge Aug. 24.

Ventura Lovato, with the Center for American Indian Health at Johns Hopkins said “Notah Begay wants to show his programs work to prevent Type 2 diabetes and obesity.”

To date, the foundation has implemented year-round soccer and golf programs engaging hundreds of Native American youth in New Mexico.

While the day focused on the foundation, many were thrilled to have a big name like Tiger Woods in Central New York for the economic benefits.

Onondaga County Legislator David Stott, who serves on the planning and economic development committee, is grateful to everyone who pulled the event together for the “secondary and tertiary benefits an event like this brings to the whole community.

“Anytime anyone takes the fortune and skills they have and uses them philanthropically is wonderful,” he said of Begay III. And even though he didn’t win the tournament he hosted, Stott said it best, “He’s a winner no matter what because he got them all here.”

It was Begay III’s father who first took him to the course when he was 7 years old. “He became excellent at the game at an early age,” the elder Begay said. “He was ranked higher than Tiger at one point.”

The crowd migrates to the next hole at the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge held Aug. 24 at Atunyote Golf Course.

Begay II spoke highly of Woods, calling him a “gentleman” and a “great athlete.” He told stories of how in their Stanford days, Woods and his son became close friends. “Tiger is like family to us.”

The younger Begay respects Woods’ golf abilities. “He’s calm and composed when everything is pushing you. … refined it and found ways to get calmer and more controlled with his emotions.”

At the end of the day, Begay III presented Woods with a trophy, a piece of Pueblo Indian black pottery from Begay’s home state of New Mexico, and Woods said he is looking “forward to coming back.”

Throughout the day, some wondered if Halbritter had a vision for an event such as this when building Atunyote Golf Course. He admitted it was true.

“What we have done is try to build a kind of quality resort to handle the caliber of talent that Tiger Woods is. … in spite of the success he has, he can go anywhere he wants, he can play anywhere he wants and he chose to come here.”

Editor’s note: Indian Country Today is a division of Four Directions Media, which is owned by Oneida Nation Enterprises, LLC.





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Check out the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge Web channelto view clips with highlights from on and off the course activities and interviews with Tiger Woods, representatives from the Oneida Indian Nation and the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians, and oneof the Native American junior golfers who attended the event.