Georgia’s Kirby Smart learns to ‘go for it’ in golf, too

Playing partner Padraig Harrington razzes Bulldogs’ coach
Georgia coach Kirby Smart represented the Bulldogs in the 17th annual Southern Company Peach Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga. Photos by Paul Abell

Credit: Paul Abell / Special to the AJC

Credit: Paul Abell / Special to the AJC

Georgia coach Kirby Smart represented the Bulldogs in the 17th annual Southern Company Peach Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga. Photos by Paul Abell

ATHENS — Kirby Smart has been known to “go for it” on the football field. It even has come back to bite Georgia’s two-time national championship coach a time or two.

So, it seemed out of character when Smart, playing in the pro-am for the Regions Tradition tournament in Birmingham, Alabama, on Wednesday, planned to lay up from the fairway on a par 5 at Greystone Golf and Country Club.

Padraig Harrington was having none of it.

Smart’s playing partner – a three-time major champion and currently the top player on the Champions Tour – cajoled Smart into attempting a 245-yard cut with a 5-wood. He might’ve even shamed Smart a little.

“You’ve hit everything where you’re looking all day,” Harrington said in his classic Irish lilt. “Don’t be stressed about it.”

“Is this the way you coach?” Harrington’s caddie Ronan Flood added.

“No, absolutely not,” Smart replied. “We go for it.”

So, Smart dutifully went for it. He pulled the fairway wood from his bag, flushed the ball and executed a beautiful cut on the dogleg right.

Never mind that his ball caught a limb as it peeled around the corner. The ball ricocheted back into the fairway and effectively stood as a layup anyway. The group birdied the hole and, thanks to Smart’s stroke via handicap, it stood as a net eagle.

More important, Smart retained his manhood, which he demonstrated for his group and trailing TV cameras with a comical gesture.

“You do feel better for yourself now that you went for it, don’t you?” Harrington said to Smart.

“I do,” Smart said with a laugh.

“The good thing is the Georgia guys feel better about you as well,” Flood asserted. “I think that would’ve been contract-canceled if you hadn’t.”

Smart’s partners were aware that he just this week signed a new 10-year, $130 million contract with the Bulldogs.

Smart did get around to talking a little football this week, between a radio interview on Birmingham’s WJOX and briefly with reporters outside the ropes on the driving range. Here’s some of what he had to say:

On whether he ever imagined making $13 million a year to coach football …

“Absolutely not. I look at the coaches over the years that paved the way: Bobby Bowden, Mickey Andrews, Joe Kines, all those guys that helped my career, how hard they worked at what they did. Never thought it would have happened.”

On the Bulldogs’ landing Arizona State quarterback Jaden Rashada out of the transfer portal …

“It’s great. We were not really active in (the portal). We kind of retained our roster and worried about the kids we got. … We had three, and we always want to have four quarterbacks. That’s the goal, so we’re excited to have him.”

On UGA’s relatively limited use of the transfer portal …

“We sell that, ‘you might be a 2 now, but you’re closer to going to the NFL draft from here as a 2 than you are at our neighbor’s school as a 1.’ The development piece is what we sell most.”

On how the offense may look different under senior quarterback Carson Beck and without three-time All-American tight end Brock Bowers …

“We’ve added a couple of wrinkles that fit what Carson does and fit what our wideouts do because it may not all be Brock Bowers-based. It may be some other guys involved.”

On the SEC rule preventing intraconference transferring in the spring …

“I’d be comfortable with that becoming permanent. I think it’s important that we’re not fighting each other’s rosters in the springtime. I don’t think that’s very good for our league.”

On defensive improvements he wants the Bulldogs to make …

“The quarterback running the ball. The running quarterback is becoming more prevalent. We want to find ways to change it up to affect the him and not let him sit there and be comfortable. We looked at a lot of things with that.”