Can you believe what happened to PGA Tour player Notah Begay?
The Bernalillo County (N.Mex.) District Attorney's office threw
him in jail last week, and, get this, they only let him out to
work on his golf game 12 hours a day! How's a guy supposed to
find time for his facial?
Begay checked into Bernalillo's detention center--a.k.a. Swing
Swing--on Feb. 28 following his second DWI conviction in five
years. The Nike-sponsored Begay was issued an orange jumpsuit
(What? No Swoosh over the number?) and a pair of slippers, and
was shown his new luxury box, an eight-by-eight-foot cell.
During his seven-day incarceration Begay spent as much time out
of jail as he did in it. He slept and ate breakfast there. (One
day it was scrambled eggs, Cream of Wheat, hash browns and fresh
fruit.) Then his driver picked him up and took him to his gym to
meet his trainer for a workout. After that he went to his house
in Albuquerque for lunch, changed into golf clothes and then was
off to the University of New Mexico championship course to work
on his game with two buddies. He had dinner in the clubhouse
grill or at home before being chauffeured back to the can.
Let's see: free room, complimentary breakfast, slippers,
courtesy car and golf. That's not jail. That's the Quad Cities
Hey, if you don't have a drinking problem, get one! What do they
give you in Albuquerque if you kill a guy, two weeks at Cypress
Point? You think the Albuquerque cooler has a frequent-traveler
program? Hey, honey, 1,000 more Prison Points and I get a free
week at Merion!
Stupid me. I always thought when people talked about correction
centers, they were referring to behavior, not grip. You figure
they let Begay have his caddie in there, too? Jesse, kindly
inform the screws that they can't break me.
Yet Begay, who not only pleaded guilty to the DWI charge but
also informed New Mexico authorities of his prior conviction in
Arizona, is coming off as a big, wonderful Native American role
model in all this. He has been roundly praised in the press as
being a "stand-up guy" who is willing to "take his medicine" and
"not dodge his responsibility." Uh, wasn't it the "medicine"
that got him into all this in the first place?
Kid: Why is Notah a hero, Daddy?
Dad: Well, son, he staggered out of a New Mexico watering hole
known as Billy's Long Bar, backed his Ford Expedition into a 1967
Jaguar in the parking lot and didn't skip the country when it was
time for the clink.
Kid: Oh, boy, can I get his autograph?
At least it wasn't plush in the big house. Some days there
wasn't even an orchid on Begay's breakfast plate. There was no
TV or radio in the cell, so he mostly slept and read when he was
locked down. He should be well rested for next week's tournament
at Bay Hill. If he wins, this jail thing could catch on.
Officer: Sorry, Mr. Pavin, I can't arrest you for an illegal drop.
Pavin: Wait, wait! I might've grounded my club on 13!
Work release is a standard penalty for a two-time DWI offender
with a job, so how did Begay get it? He didn't have any work. He
wasn't scheduled to play in a tournament last week. He wasn't
getting paid for doing anything. He had no clock to punch. And
how much work does his game need anyway? This is a guy who has
shot a 59! He won twice on the Tour last year! Before going to
jail he'd played six out of eight weeks in 2000 and made a
The Bernalillo jail staff was hilarious in trying to justify
this mess. "He'll be closely monitored while he's on work
release," said jail spokesman John Dantis. "We have officers who
check to make sure inmates are where they say they're going to
Hey, John, where else would he be? When people ditch work, golf
is the release! What's he going to do, sneak off to the local
smeltery and put in a few hours?
"I laugh about it, too," Begay said on the range last week.
Well, why shouldn't he? This could be the start of something
big. If he can find a way to attend the golf schools of San
Quentin, Leavenworth and Joliet, he'll be the first pro to
achieve the coveted Slam Slam.
Besides, all this has been a great lesson for prisoners
throughout the country. Who needs a shovel to escape when a set
of oversized irons will do nicely?
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
Notah Begay went to jail last week for a DWI conviction--and got
only 12 hours a day to work on his golf game.