During my senior year in high school, I was an all-state athlete
in golf, basketball and soccer, and sometimes after an important
win one of my friends would get a keg of beer. We would go out
on the mesa and just hang. This was my introduction to alcohol.
My drinking became more frequent at Stanford. I pushed it too
far one night two weeks ago in my hometown of Albuquerque. I
went to Billy's Long Bar to catch up with some friends and had
one too many beers. Then I made the biggest mistake of my life:
I tried to drive home. Luckily I had only a minor accident in
the parking lot and no one was hurt, but my arrest for DWI left
me greatly embarrassed.
Besides letting down my fans, I have let down my fellow Native
Americans. I'm a high-profile professional athlete, and my
mistake only feeds the stereotype that haunts my people. The sad
fact is that alcoholism is a major problem that plagues many
I pleaded guilty to aggravated drunken driving, and because I
had admitted to another DWI offense--in November 1995 in
Scottsdale, Ariz.--I was sentenced to 364 days in jail, with all
but seven days suspended. Obviously, I am not looking forward to
spending a week behind bars, but I am prepared to take the
punishment that the judge handed down.
Am I an alcoholic? I wouldn't call myself one, but to be honest,
I don't know. I could be. I am going to seek professional
counseling to find the answer, and I am considering giving up
alcohol entirely. This was something I had thought about even
before my arrest and sentencing, part of which mandated that I
not consume alcohol for one year.
As a rookie last year, I exceeded all of my expectations,
winning two tournaments. Now I'm looking for a new beginning.
Begay, 27, is scheduled to serve his sentence starting on Feb. 29.
COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK