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Begay gets 7 days in jail for drink driving

Notah Begay will serve a week in jail for his second drunken driving offense.

The PGA Tour golfer pleaded guilty today to aggravated drunken driving, his second drunken driving offense in five years. He was sentenced by Judge Cecelia Niemczyk to 364 days in jail, with all but seven days suspended.

Begay, 27, also must pay a $1,000 fine and not drink alcohol for a year. He will be on probation for one year and must perform 48 hours of community service.

He was arrested Jan. 19 after his vehicle struck a car in the parking lot of an Albuquerque bar.

"I made a big mistake and I want to be held responsible," Begay told the judge after pleading guilty and admitting his blood-alcohol level was at least .16, twice the legal limit for intoxication in New Mexico.

Begay was accompanied to court by his parents and his lawyer, Paul Bardacke. The only American Indian on the PGA Tour, Begay won two tournaments and more than $1 million as a rookie in 1999.

A day after his arrest, Begay said it was his second DWI incident. He was convicted of driving while intoxicated in Scottsdale, Ariz., in November 1995. The two offenses increased his jail term for the latest incident to a minimum of seven days.

New Mexico authorities were unaware of the Arizona case and Begay's admission drew praise from the judge and prosecutors at today's hearing.

"You are taking responsibility for more than you were originally charged with," Niemczyk told Begay. "I think that will send a great message."

"You don't have criminal defendants that volunteer information that they have committed an offense in other jurisdictions that will expose them to more (jail) time here in New Mexico," said Pete Dinelli, an assistant district attorney. "That speaks volumes for his character."

Begay plans to return to the tour this week at the Phoenix Open, which begins Thursday.

Nike, with whom Begay has an endorsement contract, also has said it stands behind him.

Begay said his arrest in Scottsdale occurred soon after he was graduated from Stanford University and moved to that city. He said he was on his way home after an evening with friends and was pulled over for speeding. Police found open containers of alcohol in the vehicle.

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