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Begay Wins First At Reno

As Notah Begay III hit his tee shot on the final hole, the encouraging shouts came from the gallery.

"Bring it home, Notah!" one yelled and another screamed "Come on, smile."

A rookie and the only American Indian on the PGA Tour, Begay did bring it home for his first tournament win with a three-stroke victory in the inaugural $2.75 million Reno-Tahoe Open on Sunday.

At the end of the round, his win secure, he acknowledged the crowd's ovation with a tip of his visor, then thrust both arms into the air and broke into a grin that reflected a mixture of triumph and relief.

Begay shot an even-par 72 in the final round, finishing at 14-under 274 at the Montreux Golf and Country Club course in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada.

It was enough for Begay, coming off his course-record 63 Saturday, to hold off the late challenges of Chris Perry and David Toms, who shot a 68 and 69, respectively, and finished tied for second at 277.

"It's just a dream come true," said Begay, who spent his childhood years on a reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. "Every single kid growing up playing golf wants to win a PGA Tournament. I never knew how difficult that was until I got a chance to come out here and compete against these guys."

Perry said he finished strong but not strong enough.

"I wish I could have posted a lower score so he had to think about it a little bit more," Perry said.

Begay's first career tournament victory completed a Stanford sweep of the PGA events this weekend. Tiger Woods, a teammate of Begay's at Stanford, won the NEC Invitational earlier Sunday.

"He's probably thinking it's about time for me," Begay said. "But that's great. I congratulate him. He's the man."

Begay began the day with a four-stroke lead but he endured some anxious moments. He had four bogeys, including ones on the par-5 ninth and par-4 10th. Perry birdied the par-4 12th to get within one stroke.

"The wheels were starting to get wobbly. I knew I had to do something," Begay said.

He gained some separation with birdies on the next two holes.

His tee shot at the par-3 11th was within 6 feet and he made the putt to go back to 13 under. On the 12th, his second shot bounced off the pin and sat down a foot from the hole. He tapped for another birdie that put him back at 14 under.

"That just kind of solidified things and calmed me down," Begay said.

He made pars on the final six holes.

"The guys behind me had to bring the game to me," Begay said. "I let them take the risk. I just needed to play percentage golf."

Begay, whose bes previous finish was a tie for 14th at the Greater Hartford Open earlier this year, said it would take a few days for the magnitude of the victory to sink in but he said neither money nor the win would change him. He boosted his season earnings to $644,704 with the first-place check of $495,000.

"I think it's a phenomenal feat, considering some of the things I've gone through. Golf is not your typical minority sport," Begay said. "My main goal my whole life is to be known as a good golfer. I want to be respected as a player who can pull out the shots when he has to and secondly as a Native American and hopefully as a role model. But this won't change my life a great deal and it won't change me."

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