Monday, October 1, 2007
The Long Shot: Hall of Fame game
By Sarah Turcotte
ESPN The Magazine
As part of my quest to prepare for the Michelob Ultra, we'll be enlisting the help of some of the best and most passionate golfers from across professional sports. They'll give me tips on playing under pressure, dealing with crowds and, most importantly, making sure I always have fun out there. (That's the part I keep forgetting.)
Braves ace John Smoltz is easily the best golfer in baseball -- his coach, Chuck Knebels, estimates that he's better than a scratch handicap. When he heard about our project, he jumped at the chance to help; he's always looking for good excuses to get out on the course as often as possible. John plays on every road trip and before most home games -- at least on the days he's not on the mound. He's also designed a state of the art practice facility in his backyard in hopes of making a run at the Champions Tour after he hangs up his (baseball) spikes.
During the late-season Brewers-Braves series in Atlanta, John was gracious enough to invite me to his home course, Hawk's Ridge, for a friendly match. Playing with a future Hall of Famer definitely tested my nerves -- the fact that he hits the ball about 330 off the tee didn't help either -- but John put me at ease right away and gave me invaluable advice on staying relaxed and committing to shots. We had a lot of laughs and a very competitive match. I'm pretty sure everything is competitive with Smoltz though, as evidenced by his admission that he, Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan are even competitive with one another about who is more competitive.
So how did it all end up? Click on the video to find out. But let's just say they don't call Smoltz the most clutch guy in sports for nothing. And check back soon for the rematch -- because neither one of us likes to lose.
Sarah Turcotte is an associate editor for ESPN the Magazine. This is her first foray into pro golf. E-mail your "A" tips to email@example.com.