Begay Co-designs Course in Kansas for Local Tribe

Notah Begay III, the PGA Tour's only full-blooded Native American player, has joined forces with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation to create Firekeeper, a golf course that will be part of the Prairie Band Casino and Resort north of Topeka, Kan.

"I've had the opportunity to travel all around the world and play on some of the best golf courses," Begay said Monday at a news conference. "You take all these mental notes and try to incorporate those experiences into what you want to do as a designer," Begay said. "My feeling is this is going to be a premier product in the area and people are going to enjoy it."

Despite his obvious ties to the Native American community, a total of 17 different design companies bid on the project.

But Begay turned out to be the perfect fit among the trio of finalists. His golf course design consulting firm, NB3, was selected in December. The course will be co-designed by architect Jeff Brauer, who also has crafted other Kansas courses, including Colbert Hills in Manhattan, Sand Creek Station in Newton and Eagle Bend Golf Course in Lawrence.

Work on the course began in May, and the course is scheduled to open in July 2010, weather permitting. The 7,400-yard layout is being built by Nebraska-based Landscapes Unlimited.

Steve Ortiz, tribal council chairman, said of the project: "With all the work that got us to this point and knowing of the tremendous possibilities for the future, I couldn't be prouder. It truly makes this a unique entertainment destination and is certain to become the jewel of the Midwest. Firekeeper will be the first and only casino, resort hotel and golf course in the region."

Begay said he hopes the course will appeal to all levels of golfers, including bringing new Native American players to the game.

"With tribes wanting to grow their businesses, it's a great fit for us," Begay said. "But our commitment goes beyond that. My foundation is going to support their junior golf initiatives and instruction and hopefully give them the same opportunities I had with the game," he said. "It goes beyond being a business decision. A project like this can serve the community for a long time to come, not just as a golf course facility, but in terms of providing junior golf, employment and training. The golf industry is a multifaceted industry, and this will offer several opportunities."

This article originally appeared in GCM Newsweekly, an e-publication of the Golf Course Superintendents of America (