The Loop

Smoltz to tee it up in Nationwide Tour event

March 16, 2011

The Nationwide Tour may not have the biggest names, but it certainly is trying to add star power to its events. Former Atlanta Braves ace John Smoltz has accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in the South Georgia Classic next month in Valdosta, Ga.

A resident of the Atlanta area (Read his "My Town" travel feature from the latest issue of Golf World) Smoltz carries a plus-handicap and has pledged to play more competitive golf now that he's retired from pitching. He still works as a baseball analyst for TBS and MLB Network, but plans to play in this event and others like the Georgia State Open, where he made the cut last year, a national two-ball tournament at Whisper Rock in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the annual celebrity event at Lake Tahoe, in which he finished tied for second in 2010.

Last year, Jerry Rice made headlines by playing on a sponsor's exemption in the Nationwide Tour's Fresh Express Classic in Hayward, Calif. Rice finished 17-over par to miss the cut by 19 shots and both he and the tour received some criticism over whether the Hall of Fame wide receiver should have been invited into the field.

By all accounts, though, Smoltz is a better player than Rice. He certainly takes his golf seriously, with a backyard that doubles as a complete practice facility and a game good enough to need only two shots a side from Tiger Woods.

In 2009, Smoltz told Golf Digest Travel Editor Matt Ginella that he has a dream of making a cut on the PGA Tour, but more realistically, hopes to play on the Champions Tour. At 43, he's still got plenty of time to get ready.

-- Alex Myers

Follow on Twitter: @AlexMyers3