It’s not the weight of that huge golf bag but rather their time together and the lessons he learned that Clint Begay remembers most when he talks about caddying for his brother, Notah Begay III. “I think I enjoyed that more than anything—being able to be on the course with him and just kind of hanging out with him, talking and being successful at the same time, which made it even better,” says the younger Begay, now program director for NB3, a foundation named after his brother, a pro golfer turned analyst for the Golf Channel.
There is pride in his voice as he recalls their successful partnership on the fairways—and pain when he talks about the tough times his brother had to go through when his body started to betray him. “I caddied four events with him, made every cut, and we won twice. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but it’s like a caddy’s dream to be that successful,” says Clint, who is now in his 40s and is two years younger than his brother.
When Notah started having physical problems that would eventually push him to retire from the professional tour, Clint went on to caddy for Dorothy Delasin and then K.J. Choi. In all, he caddied on both the PGA and LPGA tours for 10 years.
And then came the opportunity to support his father, who had started a golf program in To’hajiilee, a Navajo community west of Albuquerque. (He also started a soccer program at San Felipe Pueblo.) “I went from carrying a golf bag on a nice, pristine golf course to cleaning a dirt soccer field and trying to rid it of rocks and lining it with gypsum—from a gypsum plant from behind the casino,” he says. “I was really getting involved in the community.”
It was a good change for the tribal son (Navajo/San Felipe/Isleta Pueblo) who had lived outside of the reservation for so long. But those years caddying for his brother and traveling all over the world delivered valuable lessons he soon found helpful in his new career as soccer coach for girls. “I try to teach these kids that there’s a big world out there. Always be respectful to your culture and to your elders and to your people, but also understand that being educated and getting out into this world and experiencing it for yourself is also important,” Begay says.
He also learned a lot from his older brother, and after all these years, the brothers have never stopped talking. “We grew up on the 14th hole. That was our daycare, if you want to call it that,” says Begay, referring to Albuquerque’s Ladera Golf Course. “I have a great relationship with Notah. We are very close. I enjoy him a lot. I enjoy being around him and respect everything he has done as a husband and a father and as just a man.”
His years of coaching soccer taught him another lesson as well. He learned to grieve, give and be compassionate. It broke his heart to see girls struggling without a caring father or mother. That’s why he took on the role of counselor and later on fostered three girls, in addition to raising his own 5-year-old son, Quenton.
Three years ago, his father retired and he had to let go of heading the soccer program to take over the golf program.
“Last year, we’ve seen about 500 kids in our program, whether it’s a one-day camp or four-day camp or eight-week session,” he says.
Clint Begay’s golf programs are only one of the many initiatives of NB3 Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to reversing Native American childhood obesity and type-2 obesity. The Nike N7 initiative supports NB3. “The game gave my family so much and it continues to give my family a lot. I just try to expose them to it,” he says, referring to golf and how he coaches the kids.
If there is one thing being a caddy teaches you, it is being prepared, says Begay. “I think that is what it taught me—to try and be prepared the best you possibly can .”