Page 50

PGA 2016_Golf & Baseball.qxp_Layout 1 5/24/16 12:01 PM Page 48

W

Smoltz, part of a four-man 2015 induction class, even kept a little black book – filled not with phone numbers and measurements of adoring female fans but with intricate details of golf courses around the league. In his book Starting and Closing, Smoltz even referred to himself as his team’s “golf concierge.” It helped that they had a manager (Bobby Cox) and general manager (John Schuerholz) who also knew the difference between a caddy and a Cadillac. The only team in the history of professional sports to finish in first place for 14 consecutive years, the Braves became so enamored with golf that they planned a golf event on the lone off-day in the spring training exhibition game schedule. It came to be known as the SWT, or Schuerholz Wins Tournament. It seems nobody liked the idea of beating the team president in a friendly social contest. “When the outcome of the SWT golf outing no longer lived up to its initials, I realized somebody must have real good job security,” says Schuerholz today. “My team started losing the tournament. It went the way of all good ideas.” The long-time executive, whose teams won world championships in both leagues, remains a huge booster of golf as an in-season recreational outlet for his players. “Any way you can foster a bonding of relationships and personalities and get to spend more time with each other, the stronger they get. It’s all about fostering a joy-filled relationship with the people with whom you work and with whom you grind every day.” Glavine agrees. “Golf was our outlet,” says the lefthanded winner of 305 games. “Pitchers have good games and bad games. The in-between part is easy when you have a good game but when you have a bad game, it’s a little tougher. You beat yourself up for four days before you go back out there. “The ability to get out on a golf course with those guys and get away from the stress of the baseball season was good. It was therapeutic. A lot of our conversation centered around pitching. Maybe we needed to fix some things and make adjustments. And maybe one of the other guys could suggest something. We would also talk about the team we were going to face next. As much as we were having fun, we were picking each other’s brains too and trying to learn from each other.”

48

PGA NATIONAL RESORT & SPA

Smoltz, arguably the best golfer of the Hall of Fame trio, first played when he was in Lakeland, Florida with the Detroit Tigers’ Class A affiliate. He soon became a scratch golfer and 1-handicapper – good enough to play with Tiger Woods. He says he’s played in 75 of the top 100 courses in the United States and has had eight holes-in-one. He’s even played at Augusta National and tried to qualify for the U.S. Open. “Golf is the closest thing to getting ready to pitch,” he says. “There are all kinds of things that can go wrong. It’s about how you handle them. When you pitch, you make 115 pitches and decisions. Golf is the same.” The only pitcher in baseball history with more than 200 wins and 150 saves, Smoltz has a high-energy, competitive nature that shines on the links. Tiger Woods calls him the best amateur golfer he’s ever seen. “He’s a hell of an athlete,” Woods says of Smoltz. “He can play basketball. He was an incredible pitcher. But the way he is able to take that same tenacity into golf is amazing.” Earlier this year, Maddux and Glavine played for Team USA in the ICONS Cup, a two-day, Ryder Cup-style event that brought them to Dubai. They were among the A-list athletes who played morning foursomes followed by a dozen singles matches. Smoltz did not participate because of his ongoing assignment with MLB Network. Neither did Chipper Jones, who spent his entire baseball career with the Braves but also found time to play a mean game of golf. He’ll an oddson favorite for Hall of Fame election in 2018, the first year he is eligible. Making the transition from baseball to golf is not always easy, however. Hank Aaron, the career home run king before Barry Bonds toppled his crown, once said, “It took me 17 years to get 3,000 hits. But I did it in one afternoon on the golf course.”

PGA National Resort & Spa magazine 2016/2017  
Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you