With Brother On His Side, It's Cash And Carry
By JEFF JACOBS
The Hartford Courant
July 03, 2000
CROMWELL - He
carries the bag. He tends the flag. He drives the fancy courtesy cars.
It doesn't sound like much, eh? It doesn't sound as if Clint
Begay has had any impact on the PGA Tour.
Yet to paint this huge chunk of New Mexico as a pack mule and
designated driver is to miss what happened Sunday at the TPC at River Highlands.
There was, to be sure, a terrific golf duel over the final
holes of the
Canon Greater Hartford Open. And although he still hasn't won
here, Mark Calcavecchia handled himself like a champion this time.
Notah Begay also will be the first to tell you Calcavecchia's
eagle on 15 and his own dramatic 22-foot birdie putt for the $504,000 first prize merely
tell a golf story. There is family story here, too, a story of love and trust between
brothers, a story of fraternity that goes far behind carrying a golf bag and driving the
Cadillac at Pebble Beach or the Buick at Cromwell.
``Gosh, his support is immeasurable,'' Begay said. ``Clint's
contribution to my overall approach toward golf this year means the world to me. He knows
the tough times I've gone through. He knows how much disappointment I had in myself. He
has a lot to do with the way I'm playing.''
Clint, 25, helped read a few putts Sunday and encouraged Notah
to be patient. He is also the first to tell you Notah walks off his own distances, makes
his own club selections, essentially serves as his own caddie. Clint is a 260-pound
cheerleader in a loud Hawaiian shirt and, man, it means everything.
``Clint's like the jockey,'' Begay, 27, said. ``He
kicks me in the butt when I start getting a little bit down. If I get a little too mad or
serious, he tells a joke.''
``OK,'' he answered. ``He's like two jockeys.''
With back-to-back victories, four titles in 10 months and a
gunslinger's cool, Begay is seen by some as the best hope for the PGA Tour to avoid
becoming Planet Tiger. Before Clint joined him at the Memorial in late May, Notah had
missed five of seven cuts. Begay, a Native American who speaks passionately about being a
role model, had embarrassed himself with his second arrest for drunken driving. Half
Navajo, half Pueblo and an All-American teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford, Begay had
grown up in an adobe with plug-in heaters and no hot water on a reservation with 80
``Very, very dismal,'' Begay said.
Although he emerged from seven nights in jail satisfied he was
the one who informed the judge of a previous out-of-state arrest, he also left with a
conscience that was guilty. He felt he had let folks down. He said he had fed an ugly
stereotype of his people.
``Notah's not afraid to own up to his mistakes,'' said Clint,
who must drive his brother until he regains his driver's license. ``He could have run. He
could have hidden. He owned up to it. He faced the consequences. Good things happen to
people like that.''
Great things, too. With Clint around, he has shot up faster
than a UFO in the New Mexico night: 45th at the Memorial, 22nd at the U.S. Open, first at
at the St. Jude Classic, first at the GHO. He's hot property - just like his buddy.
``Oh, yeah,'' Begay said, laughing at the thought. ``Tiger's
been a great asset to me, as my career progresses, because he's probably one of the top
one or two most recognizable people in the world. I'm just hoping to be the most
recognizable guy in Albuquerque.''
Clint called his brother a fighter. Somebody else would have
folded when Calcavecchia eagled to tie him, Clint said. Not Notah. He loves the pressure.
Notah stuck his tongue out at his brother after barely missing
a birdie on 17. And he was the one who had to calm Clint down last week. Clint started
panicking on the eighth hole at Memphis, pushing Notah, telling him he was behind, to get
``I had to slap him around a little,'' Notah said. ``He was
getting a little out of hand.''
``I told him, `Sorry. First timer,' '' Clint said. ``I was fine
this week. Hey, I'm a veteran.''
As the brothers walked the 18th fairway Sunday, Notah broke the
tension once more.
``He said, `I got a good feeling about this putt. Dude, this is
what you live for,' '' Clint said.
And after he sank the 22-footer for the GHO title, he did a
dance, shook hands with Calcavecchia and then fell into his brother's arms.
``I told you so,'' Notah whispered.
``I don't think words can describe how I feel,'' Clint said.
``It's been the greatest experience. The winning's great, but being able to spend time
with Notah is even better. He's always gone. I'm away. We see each other maybe two months
out of the year.''
Clint wanted to apologize to the PGA Tour. He knows caddies are
supposed to wear solid colors. He wore his collegiate travel shirt from Hawaii-Hilo.
``Everything else was in the laundry,'' Clint said.
He might have run out of clothes, but he will never run out of
memories. This is his brother, the one who wears earrings in honor of his people. The one
who put red clay under his eyes at the NCAA Championship in the tradition of those who
embark on a long journey. This is the brother who says, ``I want my legacy not to be
tournament victories, not how much money I made. I want to make a difference in the lives
of young people regardless of race.''
This is the brother who dedicated his victory to a close
friend, Ron Marks, who died Monday of a heart attack. A man, Begay calls, ``Uncle
This is the brother Clint loves.
``Sometimes he holds things inside him, but I know he played
with a heavy heart this week,'' Clint said. ``Just to be able to spend time with him, to
get that bond back that we once had growing up means so much. If he never paid me a penny
that would be fine.''
And then Clint smiled, not caring what ``the family rate'' of
payment would be. He says he is going to back to Hawaii-Hilo in the fall to complete his
degree, but not before jumping on a flight to England today to watch Wimbledon before the
British Open. This summer with Notah is going to be a blast.
``Notah keeps telling me my check's in the mail,'' Clint said.
``The problem is we live in the same house. I think he sent it out on the Pony Express.''