Native Golfer Earns Spot in U.S. Open, Call from Notah Begay

Indian Country Today Media Network

It’s official: Jesse Smith, Mohawk from Six Nations, has qualified for the U.S. Open, the second major golf tournament of the season.

Smith, 33, who has golfed professionally for seven years, played his way into the U.S.’s national championship by finishing in the top four at a sectional qualifying round staged at Century Country Club in Purchase, New York on June 3. This will be Smith’s first appearance in a major–and in a PGA Tour event. The last Native American to compete at the U.S. Open was Jeff Curl, Wintu, son of former PGA Tour player Rod Curl, according to Stephen Tooshkenig, the president of ST Golf, which works with Native golfers to develop their game.

According to ST Golf, Smith has traveled the globe searching for a spot on the world’s biggest golf stage, the PGA Tour. He has competed on the Canadian Tour, Nationwide Tour, and international events. A humble golfer from New Hampshire, Smith has firm family roots planted in Ohsweken/Six Nations  (“I actually lived up there last year with them while I played the Canadian (PGA) Tour,” Smith recently told Golfweek.). He has assisted with ST Golf golf clinics which develops the golfer from top to bottom. As a professional golfer Smith has been focused on helping Indian country reach new levels through his drive and dedication to the game of golf.

And as Smith has strengthened his ties to his Six Nations roots, he’s also reached out to a major Native golfing star: Notah Begay, Navajo/San Felipe/Isleta, a four-time PGA Tour winner. (Related: Tiger Woods to Join Notah Begay III for NB3 Foundation Challenge)

According to Golfweek, Smith called Begay last year. “Prepared to leave a voice mail, Smith was stunned when Begay answered the call and not only listened to a tale of frustration from a struggling professional, but offered advice. They’ve become friends, and when the news of what happened in Purchase made the rounds, one of the first calls to Smith was from Begay.”

Through this excitement, Smith is enjoying it all.  “It really is a great feeling,” he said. “A bit overwhelming, but I’m dealing with that now and it’s all positives.”

The 113th U.S. Open Championship begins Thursday, June 13, at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Smith’s scheduled  starting time is 2:42 p.m./ET. Follow the action online at ESPN and NBC will split the coverage on the tournament’s opening day; check your local listings for details.