John Smoltz rides athletic prowess to win celebrity division at Diamond Resorts TOC

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 20: Eun-Hee Ji of South Korea celebrates with former MLB pitcher John Smoltz after winning the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions at Tranquilo Golf Course at Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando on January 20, 2019 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images) Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

John Smoltz rides athletic prowess to win celebrity division at Diamond Resorts TOC

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John Smoltz rides athletic prowess to win celebrity division at Diamond Resorts TOC

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – John Smoltz has never taken a lesson. Pitching was so mechanical that he didn’t want to be overloaded with information.

“I’m a feel guy,” he explained.

The Hall of Fame pitcher’s athletic prowess was on full display at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, where the self-taught player with the stand-up putter won the celebrity division by three shots over Mark Mulder.

“I’ve never won a golf tournament like this,” said Smoltz. “I’ve won club championships, but never a tournament, especially a four-day tournament. I’ve been close a lot. I finished second a few times. Certainly, my schedule, and now being 51, almost 52, I was starting to run out of time. With the way these guys hit the golf ball, if I didn’t shoot my 65, obviously, I wouldn’t have been in a position to do this.”

It was a dicey bogey on the par-5 17th that ultimately secured the victory for Smoltz in the modified stableford format. Smoltz’s brain was preoccupied with math down the stretch as he tried to secure as many pars as possible. The plan led to defensive golf.

Smoltz was particularly pleased that his body held up for six consecutive rounds. The 2018 U.S. Senior Open showed Smoltz that his physical ability was not where it needed to be and the work he put in in the subsequent months led to victory at Tranquilo.

Smoltz wants to get back to the Senior Open. Broadcasting jobs with Fox and the MLB network keep him busy, but there’s always room for golf.

“I really want to play as much competitive golf as I can in the next nine years,” said Smoltz. “I’m not kidding anybody or kidding myself thinking I can do it – there’s no way I can do it full-time, or there’s no way I can do it other than a handful or a couple of times. I have such respect for everyone who has played this game for a long time. But in the midst of my broadcasting, this sure helps fill the void of not having much competition the last nine years because I’ve retired. I love to compete. I really do.” Gwk

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