Smoltz talks U.S. Senior Open berth, Trams HOF induction

John Smoltz has had a whole lot of memorable sports moments, mostly in baseball, of course – and few more special than the epic 1991 World Series game against then-Twins ace Jack Morris, or the 1995 World Series championship, the Braves’ only breakthrough in that streak of all those division championships.But earlier this month, on a golf course in Georgia, Smoltz added another rung to that ladder of excellence when he qualified for the U.S. Senior Open.”It was the longest golf day of my life,” Smoltz said the other day. “I left my house at 5:15 (a.m.) and I left the golf course at 8:45 (p.m.).”Smoltz, nearly a scratch golfer, posted a 69 (37-32) as one of the first golfers to tee off at the qualifier at Plantera Ridge Golf Club in Peachtree City, Ga., about a half-hour south of Atlanta. Then Smoltz waited, and waited, and waited some more.There were three U.S. Senior Open spots available, and Smoltz had to wait out one round after another to see if he had done enough to earn the ultimate prize.And after all that waiting – about eight hours, he figured – there still was more golf to be played, as two others carded a 69, forcing a three-man playoff for that last spot.Smoltz quickly headed over to the range to loosen up after hours of sitting around.”And if you saw me hit balls the second time, you would’ve told me, if you were my caddie to take it into the house,” Smoltz said.But Smoltz, 51, once a big-game pitcher, proved clutch once again and won the playoff, earning him his spot in the biggest golf tournament of his life – the U.S. Senior Open, set for June 28 through July 1 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.Also qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open were Grand Rapids’ Tom Werkmeister and Northville’s Brian Cairns. West Bloomfield’s Gregory Davies is an alternate.”This was the greatest feeling I’ve had in a long time, since winning the World Series championship,” Smoltz said. “I still wake up trying to calm myself down.”Smoltz, the Lansing native and former Waverly star and Detroit Tigers prospect, long has been an avid golfer, and plays as much as he can – between his rather-busy baseball broadcasting schedule.And, yes, he expects to be nervous on that first tee in Colorado Springs, just like he is for any golf tournament.”I’m nervous on every first tee in a tournament,” Smoltz said. “It’s easy to play with buddies knowing you’ve got two first balls to hit off the first tee.”But I dream a lot and I put myself in these situations where hopefully when i get in them, it’s second nature. I’m literally trying to do things slower, trying to downplay what I’m about to be a part of, because if I don’t, I know how excited I’m going to be in those elements. And that usually doesn’t work when playing golf.”I’m super excited to get there and so excited to play.”The U.S. Senior Open is just part of a busy summer for Smoltz, who’s part of the lead Fox baseball broadcasting team along with Joe Buck. Smoltz also will participate in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe in mid-July, and then in later July, he’ll head to Cooperstown, N.Y., for the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.Among those being inducted this year are Smoltz’s longtime Braves teammate Chipper Jones and Smoltz’s idol growing up, Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell.