John Smoltz spent nearly all of a Hall-of-Fame baseball career that spanned more than two decades playing in MLB’s senior circuit. But now the 51-year-old is going to spend a fair amount of time on golf’s senior tour.
The PGA Tour Champions announced on Wednesday that Smoltz has been given sponsor exemptions into three tournaments in 2019, beginning with the Cologuard Classic March 1-3.
“When the phone call came for this opportunity to play in three events, I was like a little kid who just got one of the best Christmas gifts,” Smoltz told GolfDigest.com. “But I totally get the whole responsibility and the whole thing coming into it. The first thing I did was call a couple of my friends on the tour and said, ‘Tell me, seriously, what do you think?’ And they all said to a man, ‘This is going to be awesome. Do it.’ Because there’s always going to be somebody who thinks that’s not the way to go about it, but because I qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, it gave me credibility to do this. So I looked at my schedule, picked three great events, and I can’t tell you how excited I am.”
Smoltz took the rare step from celebrity golfer to serious golfer last year when he qualified for the U.S. Senior Open. The current analyst for Fox and MLB Network admits he was “ill prepared” to play at the Broadmoor—where he shot rounds of 85 and 77 to miss the cut—but he used the opportunity as a learning experience.
“The reality is, having gone through last year’s Senior Open, it prepared me and taught me what I need to work on to become a better golfer,” said Smoltz, who worked 25 of 30 days leading up to the event. “It was the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, it was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life and I took off after that determined to become better for it. . . I went to work with some different training and a different mindset.”
And Smoltz’s efforts, both in the gym and on the course, are already paying off. At last month’s Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, the former Atlanta Braves star won the celebrity flight of the LPGA season opener.
That win only fueled his fire to keep improving and continue to test himself against the best senior golfers in the world. Smoltz will also play in the Mitsubishi Electric Classic April 19-21 and the American Family Insurance Championship June 21-23. In the meantime, he’ll continue to work on his game with a new mindset.
“I look at golf a little differently now in that I’m looking at it more competitively,” Smoltz said. “Because now I realize just the sake of playing doesn’t cut it.”