Why Notah Begay got recruited to play golf while on the basketball court

You know Notah Begay. Perhaps as a former professional golfer and four-time winner on the PGA Tour. Or maybe as a Golf Channel analyst, where he has served in a variety of roles at a variety of tournaments over the last several years.

But what you don’t know about Notah Begay is that his road to collegiate golf began far away from a golf course, as he explained to hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz in this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar.

According to Begay, his success as a high school basketball player rivaled that of his high school golf career in terms of success.

“I played for a gentleman named Mike Brown at a school, the Albuquerque Academy, and was a captain of the basketball team,” he said. “We had a nice group of players. It was a great experience. We got to play in the pit — the famous pit in Albuquerque [home of the University of New Mexico Lobos] — and ran off a couple state championships.”

In fact, Begay admitted, his recruitment to play college golf at Stanford came not from his performance on the course, but during the course of a high school basketball game.

“My coach at Stanford, Wally Goodwin, never saw me hit a golf ball till I got to campus,” he said. “He actually came and watched us play in the state championship basketball tournament in Albuquerque, that was his home visit to come watch us play.”

Goodwin watched from up close as Begay led his team to a state championship, and understanding the traditional leg-up afforded to multi-sport athletes, gave the young point guard a scholarship offer for the golf team.

“We won the state championship and then he’s like, well, if this kid’s half as good as he is on the basketball court, I want him on my golf team,” Begay remembered. “So that was one of the more intriguing stories of my recruiting experience before I ended up on the farm.”

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Begay would go on to star on the golf team at Stanford alongside an impressive young star named Tiger Woods. Not long after, he would earn his PGA Tour card, collecting four wins before transitioning to a post-playing career in television.

As for how his basketball career remained a secret for so long?

“It was New Mexico, and there’s more cows in New Mexico than there are people.”

To hear the rest of Begay’s Subpar interview, including the most impressive thing he ever saw Tiger Woods do, check out the video below.

James Colgan

Golf.com Editor

James Colgan is an assistant editor at GOLF, contributing stories for the website and magazine on a broad range of topics. He writes the Hot Mic, GOLF’s weekly media column, and utilizes his broadcast experience across the brand’s social media and video platforms. A 2019 graduate of Syracuse University, James — and evidently, his golf game — is still defrosting from four years in the snow, during which time he cut his teeth at NFL Films, CBS News and Fox Sports. Prior to joining GOLF, James was a caddie scholarship recipient (and astute looper) on Long Island, where he is from.