The last time ex-Braves great John Smoltz took the mound was September 2009 for the St. Louis Cardinals. Nearly two years later, the former Cy Young award winner is taking a different set of skills into Valdosta.
Smoltz will be competing at Kinderlou Forest, the home golf course to VSU’s golf team, this weekend in the Nationwide Tour’s South Georgia Classic. The future Hall of Famer entered the tournament on a sponsor’s exemption.
“They asked me and gave me the opportunity [to play at Kinderlou] so I accepted,” Smoltz said. “I’m honored and excited about the opportunity.”
For his caddy, Smoltz chose none other than former VSU golfer, Chad Smith. Smith won the 2010 First Federal Southeast Collegiate Tournament. “The course helped me out,” Smoltz said. “It gave me the top dog, he’s been great.”
Smith is a Braves fan himself and the chance to caddy for a former Braves player is certainly a moment he will not soon forget.
“My boss called and I didn’t even answer the phone,” Smith said. “I thought he was mad about something at work. So I called him back and he told me about the situation. He asked me if I wanted to do it, I said, ‘of course.’ He said, ‘Do you know who John Smoltz is?’ I was like, of course I knew who John Smoltz is; I grew up a Braves fan.”
Considering how big of an icon Smoltz was during his tenure with the Atlanta Braves, it can be intimidating to give him tips on how to do something. However, Smith certainly has the pedigree and experience with the course to do so.
“I’ve played this course; I’ve probably played two, three hundred rounds out here,” Smith said.
“I just tell him exactly how I played the shots and how the hole plays. It doesn’t matter who’s hitting the shot, it’s going to play the same way it has for the past four years that I’ve been here.”
While Smoltz may be new at professional golf, he is no stranger to the game of baseball. The Michigan native enjoyed a twenty-two year long illustrious career, mostly spent pitching for the Atlanta Braves.
Smoltz is the only pitcher in Major League Baseball history to accumulate 200 wins and 150 saves. Smoltz helped lead the Braves to the 1995 World Series Championship and along with Greg Maddox and Tom Glavine, formed Atlanta’s historic trio of Cy Young award winners.
When asked what his ex-teammates would say about his skills on a golf course, Smoltz joked, “I’m better than them. I’ve been trying to grind at golf and get as good as I can get. I’ve progressed in a way that has been getting my game as good as I can get it.”
Smoltz will have a chance to display that game this morning as he will be teeing off at 9:05 with his trusty VSU alum at his side.