College Career


70 holes final round Emerald Valley,  34 holes at Eugene Country Club which is known throughout the west coast as having some of the finest and fastest greens around.  A couple of significant things happened that week. The first surprise was that Notah Begay had won in Hawaii the previous week, and his ball striking was shall we say less than what you would expect from the previous weeks' winner. I thought he would be striking the ball purely. He was hitting his longer irons 15 to 20 yards short and right of the greens. He was hitting the ball so far to the right I actually had to ask him where he was aiming, because I couldn’t tell. During this practice round, the Stanford golf coach Wally Goodwin, Tiger Woods, and Casey Martin all attempted to help Notah with his swing, with no positive results. After everyone had left the eighteenth tee, Notah did what he had rarely done before, he asked for help with his golf swing. He had always told us that we were only his putting coaches and not his swing teachers. Both of us up to that point had headed Notah`s wishes and only offered to help when he would directly ask us for help. This was different; he was obviously desperate.

I acquiesced and told him he was too far from the ball. The club wasn’t traveling down the line long enough. He was reaching out too far and just swiping at the ball. I told him to move the ball approximately 2 to 3 inches closer. He took 6 balls and fired them to the right of the eighteenth fairway and hit every ball pure. His improved setup position brought his hands directly under his shoulders, which is a more powerful position from which to swing. This also helped Notah keep the club traveling down the line for a longer time. This tendency for Notah to have the ball too far away would surface later on in his putting game. Remember, everyone has their own natural tendencies. We recommend keeping a diary that includes any helpful tips, lessons, or swing keys, that have helped your game.

The next morning when the tournament started you could tell this was a different golfer from the day before, Notah`s ball striking was solid for the entire tournament, especially his wedge game. The real cause for the victory though was his beautiful switch putting. His speed control was marvelous on the lightning fast greens. He had 30 one putt greens, 21 two-putt greens, and one three-putt green in fifty-two holes. Tiger Woods had 5 three putts and a 4 putt while finishing 7 strokes back. (138>145) 

Notah also rolled in one of my all-time favorite putts. It was a difficult downhill 12 foot left to right putt for par on the 13th hole during the final round.  The real problem was a severe drop off about a foot past the cup. Notah has always favored the high slow lane while putting, and this putt fit the profile perfectly. My nickname for him was the “master of the high line.” On this particular putt, a foot past the cup and your next putt is 30 footer back uphill. I looked at the putt and thought it was about a 4-foot break; Notah started his ball a full 6 feet above the cup. This putt took what seemed like forever to get to the hole, and the comments from the gallery were that it was way short and too high. Just as it appeared the ball was going to die a couple of inches beyond the hole, gravity grabbed it and pulled it in the back door. A relative of one of the other players in his group went crazy. He called Notah “the luckiest guy he had ever seen.”  I got a big chuckle out of that.

The more he practices switch putting, the luckier he gets.

 The only request I gave to Notah before the tournament, other than moving closer to the ball, was that he “get into the hunt.” I told him that I was interested in his progress both as a switch putter and as a young man. Notah showed how far he had come by birdieing the last three holes to win by three. This was his 3rd victory of his senior season, and his 5th in his final two years of college golf. Coach Wally Goodwin and Notah Begay were kind enough to invite me for lunch with the winning Stanford team. I was very proud to see our young switch putting student perform at such a high level. I believe Tiger’s presence as a teammate has helped Notah to calm down. He was running wild as a junior, as a senior, he has matured considerably.

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