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Notah Begay reports for jail

Pro golfer Notah Begay III reported to jail today to begin serving a seven-day sentence for drunken driving.

"I broke the law and I'm paying the price," he said. "I know I'm going to be extremely relieved next Monday when I get out."

Begay, a two-time winner on PGA Tour last year, was arrested Jan. 20. He failed a sobriety test after his vehicle struck a parked car outside a bar. Police said his blood-alcohol level was more than twice New Mexico's legal limit.

The 27-year-old golfer pleaded guilty last month to a charge of aggravated drunken driving and told the judge he had a prior DWI conviction in Arizona five years ago. Judge Cecelia Niemczyk sentenced Begay to 364 days in jail, with all but seven days suspended.

Begay is the only American Indian on the PGA Tour. His golf game has been steady if not spectacular. He tied for fourth in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and has earned $250,188 in six starts.

As part of the work release program, Begay expects to spend some time working out at a gym and hitting balls at a driving range.

"I have requested some specific hours for training," Begay said.

Capt. John Van Sickler, a Bernalillo County Detention Center spokesman, said Begay's work release program will be structured just like that of any other inmate.

"He has not wanted to be treated any differently than anybody else," said Van Sickler, adding it was the first time the jail has housed a professional golfer.

Begay is one of about 70 inmates being held in protective custody. He is isolated from others, and normally that means an inmate is in a cell 23 hours a day.

"The court has allowed him, and the jail has verified, he can leave on work release," Van Sickler said.

Begay is classified as "self-employed" for the work release program and can set his own hours.

"Obviously, there is a limit," Van Sickler said. "He's not going to be out 14 or 15 hours a day."

Van Sickler said Begay probably will be allowed out eight to 10 hours a day. Begay will be subject to a random drug test and a job-site spot check.

"We'll go out there, and he better be there," Van Sickler said.


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