Aug. 11—One of the last places you'd expect to have a vehicle broken into and sports gear stolen from inside is a golf course. A nice golf course, at that.
Yet, that's exactly what happened on the eve of the Class 4A State Golf Championships at Santa Ana Pueblo in May. Three players from Los Alamos High School had their clubs stolen out of the team van prior to the May 9 opening round.
Officials from the golf clubs at Santa Ana and Twin Warriors pulled together to provide replacement clubs for the 36-hole tournament, which wrapped up May 10.
Now, one of New Mexico's all-time greats is stepping up to help those players. Notah Begay III, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, has teamed with Realty One New Mexico and Santa Ana Pueblo to present those three Hilltoppers with new Ping clubs and bags.
"Bad things happen in life from time to time, but it's at these moments that we must come together as a community to support our kids," Begay said in a release issued Wednesday by the New Mexico Activities Association.
Los Alamos wasn't able to qualify its boys and girls teams for spring's state tournament, but players Connor Cook, Gabriela Mowrer and Natalie Crawford all made it as individual qualifiers during the regular season. The three traveled together with the Hilltoppers coaches to Santa Ana Pueblo, which is just outside Bernalillo.
The trio fared well with the borrowed clubs. Mowrer placed 16th in a crowded field, finishing with a two day total of 188. Crawford was four strokes behind, good enough for a 19th-place finish.
Cook was 28th on the boys side, carding a two-round total of 181.
"This is a wonderful example of the golf community coming together to help make things right," said Derek Martinez, the director of golf at the Santa Ana Golf Club.
Begay was a standout player during his high school days at Albuquerque Academy. He earned a scholarship to play at Stanford, where he was teammates with Tiger Woods and future PGA player Casey Martin.
Begay was part of Stanford's memorable 1994 NCAA championship team where he set the NCAA Tournament record with a second-round 62 at the Stonebridge Golf Course in McKinney, Texas. It helped the Cardinal end a 41-year title drought.
He turned pro the following year, rising from the Nike Tour to the PGA in 1999. His debut on the big stage was remarkable; he won four events in a 10-month span between 1999 and 2000. He secured a top 10 finish in a major when he placed eighth in the 2000 PGA Championship.
Back injuries plagued him for the remainder of his career. He has since gone on to be a successful career as a broadcaster and ambassador for the game, as well as his numerous charitable acts that include the Notah Begay III Foundation for Native American kids.
His influence in New Mexico golf circles continues to this day. That includes his impact on helping the Los Alamos players.
"My heart broke for the kids who had their clubs stolen, and to see local groups step up to help make the best of a bad situation is what competing with class is all about," said NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez.
A formal presentation will take place Monday during a news conference at the R1 offices in northeast Albuquerque.
"We are pleased to be a part of a happy outcome for a very unfortunate circumstance," said R1 CEO Mike Taylor.