John Smoltz, a former major league pitcher who had his best seasons while playing for the Atlanta Braves, has accepted a sponsor’s exemption into the South Georgia Classic, a Nationwide Tour event to be played April 28-May 1 in Valdosta, Ga. Officials announced the exemption today.
Smoltz, 43, is a scratch golfer who has attempted to qualify for the U.S. Open and finished second in last year’s American Century Championship, a celebrity event in Lake Tahoe, Nev. This will be the first appearance in a PGA Tour co-sanctioned event for Smoltz, a resident of Alpharetta, Ga. who spent 22 seasons pitching in the majors.
In an interview with the Golf Channel, Smoltz said he is “not looking to take anybody’s spot who is aspiring to be a (PGA Tour) professional” but wanted to “see what it’s like” to tee it up in a professional event.
In past interviews, Smoltz has mentioned the possibility of attempting to qualify for the Champions Tour after he turns 50. Tiger Woods, an occasional golfing partner with Smoltz in recent years, identified Smoltz as a likely candidate to make that happen.
During an interview at the Masters while Smoltz was still an active player, Woods identified Smoltz as the best amateur golfer among he had played among professional athletes from other sports. Woods even acknowledged that Smoltz shot a 68 during their round together and wound up costing Woods a few dollars _ as well as some bragging rights _ during a wager that day. Woods also acknowledged that losing such wagers to amateur golfers was a rare occurrence.
_ Jimmy Burch