Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and four-time PGA Tour winner Notah Begay III have confirmed the tournament date and playing field for the fifth annual Notah Begay III (NB3) Foundation Challenge. The world-class charity golf event will tee off on Wednesday, August 29 at Turning Stone Resort’s Atunyote Golf Club on Oneida Indian Nation lands near Verona, New York. The Challenge raises funds for Begay’s charity, which fights obesity and diabetes among Native American children.
For the first time in the five-year history of the event, a new East meets West format will be used to pair the fiercely competitive field of golfers in a mixed team, best ball tournament, pitting U.S. and Asian players against each other, with a $450,000 winners’ purse at stake. A collection of PGA Tour stars led by Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler and K.J. Choi along with top LPGA golfers Cristie Kerr and world’s number one Yani Tseng will be among those joining Begay to help support the continued effort of the NB3 Foundation to raise awareness and funding for the improved health and wellness of Native American youth nationwide.
Rounding out the 12-player field will be PGA Tour pros Gary Woodland, major champion Y.E. Yang, Charlie Wi and Danny Lee, and LPGA Tour golfers Lexi Thompson and Se Ri Pak. All proceeds from the tournament go directly to benefit the NB3 Foundation. In its first four years, the event has raised more than $3 million through its robust, on-going partnership with the Oneida Indian Nation and the support of professional golfers.
“I’m happy and humbled to announce that the Challenge will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year,” said Begay. “This event has played such a huge part in helping the NB3 Foundation in its mission of empowering Native youth to sustain active, healthy and productive lives. The support from the Oneida Indian Nation and commitment from great players such as Tiger, Rickie, K.J. and Yani to attend and compete means so much to me. Together, we continue the battle against obesity and type 2 diabetes to improve Native communities everywhere.”
Begay, Navajo/San Felipe/Isleta, was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He secured a golf scholarship to Stanford University where he earned a degree in economics in addition to earning all-America honors three times and led the golf team to a National Championship in 1994. In addition to winning four PGA Tour tournaments, Begay became only the third player in the history of professional golf to shoot 59 in a professional event and partnered with good friend Tiger Woods in the 2000 President’s Cup.
When Begay is not on the golf course, he dedicates his time to positively impacting the Native American community. In 2005, he launched The Notah Begay III Foundation. The Foundation works to battle obesity and diabetes in the Native American youth. In addition, he owns a golf course development firm and works exclusively with Native communities to develop world-class golf properties. Begay was named one of Golf Magazine’s Innovators of the Year in 2009 and has also been named one of the Top 100 Sports Educators in the world by the Institute for International Sport.
Returning to the Challenge this year is Begay’s former roommate at Stanford University, Tiger Woods. He owns 14 professional golf major championships, the second-highest total in the history of the men’s game, and his 73 PGA Tour victories are tied for second all-time. Fowler, who is part Navajo, has roared onto the golf scene and recently earned his first win as a pro at the Wells Fargo Championship. South Korean prodigy K.J. Choi is set to represent the exceptional Asian talent in the field. His 18 professional golf tournament wins, including eight on the PGA Tour, and 40 weeks spent in the top 10 world rankings make him Asia’s most successful golfer.
Cristie Kerr returns as a two-time defending NB3 Foundation Challenge champion. Kerr is one of the LPGA Tour’s most accomplished players, owning 14 career professional wins, including two major tournament titles. Hailing from South Korea, Se Ri Pak will also showcase her unparalleled talent on the golf course at this year’s event. Her 24 LPGA victories, including five major championships, have earned her the distinction of being the youngest women’s golfer ever to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Gary Woodland, representing the U.S., is coming off an outstanding 2011 PGA Tour campaign, which included six top 10 finishes and his first career win. Y.E. Yang of South Korea made history in 2009 when he became the first Asian to win a major championship with a victory at the PGA Championship. At that PGA, Yang pulled off an extraordinary upset of Woods to win. Entering the final round, Yang was tied for second, two strokes behind leader Woods. Until that Sunday, Woods had been a perfect 14 for 14 when leading a major after 54 holes. A miraculous shot on 18 by Yang knocked off Woods, sealing an “unexplainable, unbelievable triumph over the world’s No. 1 player,” as PGA.com described. Expect that to add a bit of fire to the competition at Turning Stone.
Charlie Wi, also a South Korean native, took home a top-10 and six top-25 finishes in 2011. Born in South Korea but a naturalized New Zealander, Danny Lee became the youngest player ever to win a PGA European Tour-sanctioned event, and in 2011 earned his first Nationwide Tour victory at the WNB Golf Classic, which secured his PGA Tour card for 2012.
Completing the field are LPGA pros Lexi Thompson and Yani Tseng, from the U.S. and Taiwan, respectively. Thompson burst onto the national golf scene when she was only 12 years old, becoming the youngest person to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open. Four years later, Thompson was already an LPGA Tour winner. Tseng emerged as a star in her early twenties, winning majors and reaching No. 1 in the world rankings. When she won the 2011 Women’s British Open, she became the youngest golfer ever—male or female—to win five majors.
Although the event will be a spectacular display by some of the world’s greatest golfers, it’s the youth of Indian country who will be the biggest winners. The money raised over the first four installments of the NB3 Foundation Challenge has helped Begay and the Foundation launch, sustain and expand programming driven by Native staff to attack profound health and wellness issues impacting Native American youth and to empower those youth and help them realize their potential as tomorrow’s leaders. Beginning in 2005, the mission of NB3 Foundation has been to reduce the incidences of obesity and diabetes and advance the lives of Native American youth through evidence-based sports, health and wellness programming. The Foundation continues to support the development of sustainable, evidence-based and model programs, research, advocacy and strategic grantmaking in Native American communities. More than 10,000 Native youth have been engaged and served by the NB3 soccer and golf programs and additional Foundation initiatives.
The NB3 Foundation Challenge continues to proudly demonstrate what Native groups can accomplish through shared efforts and resources aimed at addressing important issues in Native American communities. Indian Nations, like Oneida, have made extraordinary progress in recent years to build promising futures for their youth and communities, and this event exemplifies that progress. Turning Stone Resort Casino, the host site for the NB3 Foundation Challenge, is an economic enterprise of the Oneida Indian Nation.
“We are pleased to partner with Notah Begay to bring all of Central New York this great event,” said Halbritter. “We are honored to host the world’s finest male and female professional golfers and provide a platform to promote the critically important charitable work that the NB3 Foundation is doing for Indian country.”
Tickets for the 2012 NB3 Foundation Challenge are on sale now, and may be purchased by contacting the Turning Stone Box Office at 315-361-SHOW (7469) or visiting the Box Office which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are priced at $50 for adults. Youth admission for 16 and under is provided complimentary with purchase of an adult ticket (must be requested at time of original purchase). Active Military receive a 50 percent discount upon presentation of a valid military I.D. Overnight packages are also available by calling 800-771-7711.
For more information about the NB3 Foundation and the NB3 Foundation Challenge, visit Notah.com.