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AIN – On a late September morning deep within the Navajo Nation, Larron Badoni practiced his golf swing. Sun blanketed the plateaus and mesas surrounding the Lowerville Stingers Golf Club – nine holes scattered over a rocky, hilly, shrubby landscape dotted with blue shade structures, weathered carpets and pins flying red and white flags. It was just about time for the Lowerville Stingers Golf Club’s seventh annual Rez Golf Two Player Scramble to tee off in Low Mountain, population 700. “Rez golf” is growing in popularity among the Navajo, but few outsiders know of it. It’s a game unto itself, an innovative sport designed to be played on rugged courses built amid rocks, medicinal plants, and grazing livestock. On the sprawling, isolated reservation, people play rez golf for reasons – community, entertainment, family, sport and health – both physical and mental. “Can’t go to a movie theater, there’s no bars, there’s no pizza places,” Badoni said of reservation life. “The only way to deal with it is probably the bottle, that’s probably what I would be doing if golf wasn’t around.” Badoni, 46, a tall man with a tidy goatee, is a heavy equipment operator from nearby Piñon. For tournament play, he wore a gray T shirt and slacks and a black baseball cap. His brother and golf partner, Llewellyn Badoni, 36, wore a bandanna around his head and a white tournament T shirt – sporting the Lowerville Stingers logo of a bee holding a golf club – and comfortable dark sweatpants. More players gradually arrived, parking their cars and trucks on each side of the dirt driveway leading to the gritty course. In T shirts, shorts, sunglasses and baseball hats, they toted their mostly secondhand clubs as they registered at the home of the Ben family, who designed and built the course. Several years ago, Marvis Ben, a Michael Jordan fan, learned the retired NBA star is an avid golfer. Ben decided to take up the game, so, he found an empty tin can at the trash dump and sank it into the dirt behind his family’s home in Low Mountain. For the Navajo, rez golf is about community, entertainment, family, sport and health – both physical and mental. (Photo by Jake Goodrick/Cronkite News)

A message from the Rural Assembly

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