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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 November 2006, 12:52 GMT
'Soccer' saved my career - Begay
By Mandeep Sanghera

Notah Begay
Begay is a Barcelona fan but has yet to pick a Premiership team
Four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III has admitted he considered quitting golf before his love for sport was reawakened by football.

Begay joins the European Tour in 2007 and is now fully fit after suffering from depression as he spent nearly six years overcoming a back injury.

"(Football) gave me a passion to play again," Begay, 34, told BBC Sport.

"I just love it. To see the passion that fans have for their team reignited the passion I have for my golf."

The former Presidents Cup star watched Manchester United draw with Chelsea, Bolton beat Arsenal and West Ham's win over Sheffield United on television in the US last weekend.

The Native American has taken an unusual step in opting for the European Tour rather than playing on one of the US circuits but says one of the benefits will be the amount of football he can watch.

I was physically feeling bad, I was battling depression and I didn't see any alternatives other than to quit golf

Notah Begay III

"I'm going to enjoy getting to see world-class football every week on the telly, so that's going to be a good part of my trips as well," he said.

Begay's enthusiasm for football saw him set up a soccer school for kids from his Native American community in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and he says it was a major part in his recovery from a torn disc in his lower back - one of the most serious injuries for a golfer.

"It's really been excruciating," he recalled. "I played the Masters in 2001 and I couldn't even bend down to pick my ball up.

"It led to some pretty significant depression. I got to my lowest point in the summer of 2005.

"My spine was starting to heal but I developed a sciatic nerve condition where I had pain and numbness all down the back of my right leg.

"I had a really tight group of muscles in my right hip. I could barely walk. I had a severe limp and I couldn't stand for extended periods of time.

"I definitely couldn't run or hit a golf ball. That was for about three months.

"It was about this time that I started the soccer programme and it gave me the opportunity to put my time and energy into something positive.

Notah Begay (left) and Tiger Woods
Begay and world number one Woods are university buddies
"In a nutshell, it kept me from going into some darker places and deeper levels of depression.

"I saw the motivation and excitement in their eyes when they played soccer and I remembered how much I loved golf."

Begay, who was a top-15 player after winning four times in 12 months in the US between 1999 and 2000, admits that prior to his involvement with the football team he had seriously been considering a career outside of sport.

"I was physically bad, I was battling depression and I didn't see any alternatives other than to quit golf and try something new," he said.

"I have an economics degree from Stanford University, so I had options, but I stuck it out and got through it."

Begay remains close friends with Stanford room-mate Tiger Woods and he says the world number one was one of the people who helped him get his career back on track.

"I've had some tremendous support from my wife, family and friends. I've used that as motivation to keep moving forward.

"I started to pursue my golf with a better attitude and it's taken me about a year to turn that around.

"My best event in the last two years was the final stage of the European Q-School. I really had a chance to win and if it wasn't for a bad final round I may have come a bit closer.

"It gave me some momentum heading into next year and I can't wait to tee up in my first European tournament."



SEE ALSO
Begay backs out of Open
04 Jul 01 |  Golf
Begay: Tiger is too good
22 Aug 00 |  Golf
Begay's crash and burn
20 Jul 00 |  The Open
Begay birdies for double
03 Jul 00 |  Golf


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