RTO Notebook: First event special for Begay

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

RENO " Notah Begay remembers 1999 like it was yesterday.

Begay won the first-ever Reno-Tahoe Open with a 14-under-par 274, which included a 63 on Saturday afternoon. He held off a late charge from Chris Perry and David Toms for his first career win.

"I think your first victory, I think most players will probably agree it's usually up there in the ranks of your most special one (moment)," Begay said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon at Montreux Golf & Country Club. "The only thing that might precede that is maybe (winning) my first major win or the birth of a child. Other than that, it (the first win) is up there."

Wins have been tough to come by for the former Stanford star, who played with Tiger Woods in college. He's won four PGA titles, but hasn't been ranked in the top 100 since 2000.

Begay has played on several different tours in recent years, but without a lot of success. He is still chasing the dream, and you have to admire him for that.

"I kind of played a little bit of everywhere," Begay said. "By the end of the season, I think I will have played on six or seven different tours from The Golden State, Gateway, The Adams Series to the European Tour, The PGA Tour, Nationwide and a couple of state opens, all in an effort to just keep the dream alive so to speak.

"My only goal this year when January kicked off and everybody else was playing, and I was sitting at home hurting, was to be ready for Q School and get healthy. I feel better. I don't hurt in the morning. I had a big disk herniation and I re-injured it in Italy at the Italian Open."

Quitting, according to Begay, was an option.

"I really thought about hanging it up the last couple of years just because most guys out here at this level put a lot (of work) in and at least get two or three weeks of good play," he said. "I haven't had a good week in two years.

"I've seen some signs of life. Coming out with an opening round of 66 at Hartford and I had an opening-round 67 at the AT&T. I followed those rounds with poor performances. It's something Tiger and I have talked about time and time again. He has been through this with me every step of the way."

Woods told Begay to build nine holes at a time. Begay told the media that he's gotten to 18, but can't get to 27.

'Unless I'm playing the member-guest (tournament) back home, I've got a long way to go," he said.

Who knows?

Past winners like Vaughn Taylor and Will MacKenzie have gone on to bigger and better things after winning in Reno.

TOUGH DAY FOR WIE

Michelle Wie will garner plenty of attention when she tees off at 1:55 p.m. today.

And, hopefully she'll play better than she did on Wednesday in the pro-am.

Wie shot a 9-over-par 81, stringing together a ddouble-bogey and triple-bogey in a span of three holes on the front nine. She also double-bogeyed No. 9 when she hit her tee shot out of bounds.

The over-par barrage wiped out a good start that saw her birdie three of the first five holes.

PRO-AM RESULTS

Nathan Green's pro-am team won Wednesday's round with a 19-under-par 53, edging out teams captained by Lee Janzen and Dicky Pride, who carded a 54 and 55, respectively.

Green actually didn't help out his team much, shooting a 4-over-par 76.

The low scores of the day belonged to Reno's Scott McCarron and Ted Purdy, both of whom shot 6-under 66s.

IT'S PARTY TIME

The tournament has a couple of new features designed to make things fun for families and adults alike.

There is the "Kidz Par-Tee Zone" which provides families with children a play area including a putting green, bounce house, face painting and more.

On the par-3 16th is "Fiesta Loco", a fiesta-themed hospitality area featuring margaritas, a taco and burrito bar and a mariachi band.

"I think it's great," said McCarron. "We are trying to ramp up the tournament and get some new blood in here. We've got a great sponsor with legends coming in and trying to make it fun. The mariachi band? I just asked if I made a birdie do I get to come back and get a half-price margarita. That was one of the questions I asked."

Begay, the winner of the first-ever tournament at Montreux, agreed with McCarron.

"I think golf is serious enough," he said. "I think anything that tournaments can do to enhance the experience for the fans without compromising the competitive atmosphere for the players is good.

"These areas, Las Vegas and Reno are places that creativity is supposed to be a real prominent feature of these places, so I'm ready to see some creativity. I think there is a time and place for the quiet times and the traditional values and principles of the game and those would be the big invitational events and the major championships."

- Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281

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