The PGA Tour granted Braves legend John Smoltz sponsor exemptions into three PGA Tour Champions tournaments this season, the latest milestone in his post-baseball golfing endeavors.
Smoltz will play in the local Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf, held April 15-21 in Duluth, along with tournaments in Tucson, Ariz.; and Madison, Wis. He accepted the maximum number of exceptions allowed by the PGA Tour.
“I am thrilled and super excited,” Smoltz said. “I got some calls with these opportunities, looked at my schedule, and besides being super excited, looked at how I could fit it in. That is exactly what has worked out. I am able to play in three. I have a lot of guys that I know, a lot of friends on the tour, I have the upmost respect for every single one of them that have played this game their whole career. I just look forward to the challenge.”
Sponsor exemptions are additional players added at the tournament’s discretion, not requiring the usual prerequisites.
Last summer, Smoltz qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, which he referred to as the greatest accomplishment of his life (the many baseball achievements were team-oriented, he reminds). He hopes to qualify again, though he’s unsure if his busy schedule would allow him to participate.
Smoltz, 51, is an MLB analyst for Fox and MLB Network. He gets his schedule a month in advance, unaware of which games he’ll cover in the next slate. He praised the networks for their accommodations with his golfing career, and the three exemptions fit perfectly into his schedule.
“I don’t have much competition outside of my sport anymore, and anyone who has played professional sports, should and does love competition,” he said. “This is a point in my life where I can maximize the opportunity to get better. … I learned so much about me through that, and it has put me in position to be a better golfer. I understand what comes with it. I understand all that is before me, and I am going to embrace every second of it. I am going to have a blast and see what kind of golf I am going to play.”
A beloved Brave, Smoltz spent two decades with the franchise as a starter and reliever. Smoltz was an eight-time All-Star, captured a Cy Young Award in 1996, twice led the National League in wins and strikeouts and once led the league in saves.
Smoltz won his only World Series championship with the Braves in 1995. His No. 29 is retired by the team, and his accomplishments are immortalized in the Braves’ and baseball’s Hall of Fame. He remains thankful for the community’s backing as he’s pursued his post-baseball aspirations.
“It’s incredible,” he said. “Just the support I have received through whether it is the community outpouring efforts or the charities, Atlanta is special to me. I have lived there longer than where I grew up in Michigan. I have raised my family there and have had so many incredible memories.”