John Smoltz had a long and successful career in major league baseball, but he’s most happy about his recent accomplishment.
Smoltz, who is a plus-two handicapper, qualified for the Senior U.S. Open.
“My first victory, I didn’t think it could get much better with the excitement of family and friends who were there in Shea Stadium,” Smoltz said Monday in a phone interview with the Free Press. “But I was by myself and did this myself and nobody handed it to me.
“And the feeling I had was such a sense of first, I can’t believe this. And then I got in the car and I yelled. I called my wife (Kathryn) and started yelling. Basically screaming. She said she’s never seen me so happy.”
The 51-year-old arrived at Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado at 7:10 a.m. for his qualifying round and his group was finished by 11:00 a.m., but Smoltz then had to wait around for seven hours and 45 minutes for a playoff.
“I’d look at the computer,” said Smoltz, an analyst for Fox and MLB Network. “I couldn’t take looking at the computer because of the scores. Then I started working on my game (preparation) for baseball for about an hour and a half. Then I started watching the Memorial. I was borderline going crazy because it was a long time.”
Smoltz made it through the playoff after he and Brian Ferris of Atlanta made birdie on the first hole, both doubled the second hole, and thanks to a three-putt from Ferris on the third playoff hole, he advanced.
Smoltz said he received more congratulatory texts from friends than when he was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame.
“I’m not kidding you, it’s been more texts about this than the Hall of Fame,” Smoltz said. “Tiger texted me while he was getting ready to play in the Memorial. Everybody you can imagine who’s been blown away by it has been so congratulatory.”
It’s quite an accomplishment to qualify for the U.S. Open, and Smoltz did it in the middle of a grueling broadcast schedule for both Fox and MLB Network. After his round, he caught a flight to New York and arrived at 2:30 a.m. and then broadcast a 14-inning game.
Although he qualified for the tournament, he knows that he is entering as an underdog and has tempered his expectations to be realistic saying he hopes to shoot a pair of 75s, but doesn’t expect to make the cut.
“It’s not like I’m sitting here saying I’m going to grow a head of hair again when I know I can’t,” he said. “But within reality, I really feel like I can accomplish things when I put my brain to it and I put my mind to it.
“I know this. I going to have the time of my life,” he said. “No one handed me this. No sponsor’s exemption. This is something I can feel good about.”
Smoltz is right, with golf, if you practice and have the right mindset, anything can happen. He now gets to fulfill a dream that many wish they could achieve.