Golf

John Smoltz's first round at the final stage of PGA Tour Champions Q-School proves just how tough pro golf is

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John Smoltz, pictured here at the Former MLB player John Smoltz plays his shot from the second hole tee during round one of the 2022 ClubCorp Classic.
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It’s no secret that John Smoltz has some serious game.
The 55-year-old MLB Hall of Famer has been a regular on the celebrity pro-am circuit in recent years, and he has played in a number of PGA Tour Champions events, as well as the 2018 U.S. Senior Open.
This week, he’s attempting to add another line to his illustrious resume: PGA Tour Champions cardholder. Smoltz is attempting to do something no other former pro athlete in another sport has ever done before: earn a Tour card.
After qualifying for the the PGA Tour Champions’ Final Stage of Q-School at TPC Scottsdale this week, Smoltz has up to four rounds to prove his mettle. But qualifying for a Tour card is notoriously tough. Of the 78 men in the field, only the top five will walk away with a full exemption on the PGA Tour Champions in 2024. And Smoltz has some serious competition in the form of former PGA Tour players like PGA Champion Shaun Micheel, Notah Begay III, Omar Uresti, Daniel Chopra, Greg Chalmers, Jason Bohn … the list goes on.
Despite the great play that earned Smoltz a spot in the field in Scottsdale (he was one over through four rounds to finish T14 at Buckhorn Springs Golf & Country Club in Valrico, Fla., in November), tournament golf has an uncanny way of humbling you when you least expect it. Smoltz did not get the start he needed on Tuesday at TPC Scottsdale, going out in 40 on the front and ultimately settling at the bottom of the leaderboard with a round of 80.
“I don’t live in a false reality,” Smoltz told the PGA Tour ahead of his first round. “This sport is really difficult. I’m not trying to think that this is something that I could do for a whole year or not … but it’s fun to attempt it.”
Smoltz’s difficult start is further proof of just how hard it is to get a foothold in the world of pro golf, how well you have to play to have a chance, and how tough the competition can be.
But if there’s one way to describe Smoltz, it’s as a competitor. Regardless of what the next round brings for him, he’s likely to be undeterred from continuing to test himself against the best. After all, in the immortal words of A League of Their Own’s Jimmy Dugan, “The hard is what makes it great.”

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.
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