Storylines: South Georgia Classic Pres'd by First StateFormer Major League pitcher John Smoltz faces a Kinderlou Golf Club that measures nearly 7,800 yards.April 26, 2011
PGA TOUR staff
Eight-time Major League Baseball All-Star John Smoltz takes his golf game to a new level this week when he tees off on Thursday in his first PGA TOUR-sanctioned event, the Nationwide Tour's South Georgia Classic presented by First State Bank & Trust Co. in Valdosta, Ga. The 43-year-old carries a plus-2 handicap and has attempted to qualify for the U.S. Open and Georgia Open, and has played a number of rounds with Tiger Woods, which includes a visit to Augusta National Golf Club.
Smoltz will tee off at 9:05 a.m. in the first round with Andrew Giuliani and Jason Enloe and 2:15 p.m. on Friday (same pairing).
His stated goals are to see how he and his body react in TOUR-level competition and to demonstrate respect for the game and the players on the Nationwide Tour. Nine former professional athletes have competed in Nationwide Tour events before. The South Georgia Classic field is 156 players.
The low sixty players (and ties) will make the cut after the second round on Friday. Last year, 72 players made the cut at one-over-par 145 on the par-72 Kinderlou Forest Golf Club layout, which at 7,781 yards is the longest on the Nationwide Tour and PGA TOUR this year.
SMOLTZ GUEST ON JIM ROME: John Smoltz is scheduled to be a guest on the Jim Rome Show (radio) on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET before he tees off in the pro-am.
SERIOUS LOCAL KNOWLEDGE: It looks like John Smoltz has aligned himself with a pretty good caddie for the South Georgia Classic. Chad Smith, a former Valdosta State University golfer who works at Kinderlou Forest G.C., will be by Smoltz' side. In March 2010, Smith won the Southeastern Collegiate golf tournament at Kinderlou Forest, leading VSU to a nine-shot victory.
GAINEY GAINING: 2010 Nationwide Tour graduate Tommy Gainey had his best finish of the year last weekend at The Heritage, a third place in his home state of South Carolina where he played in front of a contingent of family and friends. The performance pushed him to No. 30 on the FedExCup points list. Gainey was joined by 21 other Nationwide Tour alumni who finished inside the top 29 at Hilton Head Island.
TOP 50 COURSES: Golfweek's recently published list of "Tour Courses You Can Play / 2010-11" contains four Nationwide Tour venues inside its top 50. They include this week's host Kinderlou Forest G.C. at No. 16, plus TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, Calif. (Fresh Express Classic) at 38th, University of Georgia GC in Athens, Ga. (Stadion Classic at UGA) at 43rd and TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open) at 47th.
BRANDT SNEDEKER / NO. 302: Congratulations to 2006 Nationwide Tour graduate Brandt Snedeker on his playoff win at The Heritage in Hilton Head Island, S.C. on Sunday. It was the 302nd PGA TOUR win by a Tour alumnus and 14th this year.
UGA CONNECTIONS: A pair of University of Georgia star golfers have earned sponsor exemptions to play in next week's Stadion Classic at UGA. Russell Henley and Harris English earned their spots based on the 24 rounds they played over the course of the golf season. Henley's average was 72.83, English's 72.91. Missing out by the slimmest of margins was Hudson Swafford (73.00). \
"Our alumni have had great success on both the Nationwide Tour and PGA TOUR, and I expect we will see much of the same from these three guys," said UGA head coach Chris Haack.
TV REMINDER: The South Georgia Classic was originally scheduled to be televised on Golf Channel. It was announced last month that it will not air this year. The Cox Classic presented by Lexus (Aug. 4-7) in Omaha, Neb. has been added to the Nationwide Tour TV lineup.
JUNIOR INVITATIONAL AT SAGE VALLEY GOLF CLUB: Nicholas Reach of Moscow, Pa. won last week's inaugural Junior Invitational at Sage Valley Golf Club near Augusta, Ga. by eight shots over Patrick Rogers of Indiana, posting a 20-under-par 196 total. He opened with 62. PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem presented the "Sage Valley Gold" jacket to the champion.
Reach also received a sponsor exemption into the Nationwide Tour's Melwood Prince George's County (Md.) Open June 2-5 at the University of Maryland Golf Course. In 2008 and 2009 Reach was invited to play in the Nationwide Tour's Northeast Pennsylvania Classic in Scranton, Pa., near Moscow where he grew up. Reach, 18, is headed for the University of Georgia in the fall.
BLOGGING: Five Nationwide Tour players will share their thoughts and experiences about the Nationwide Tour throughout the season on PGATOUR.COM. First-year players Jimmy Brandt (San Antonio, Texas/Auburn U.), Travis Hampshire (Garrett, Ind./Purdue U.), Shawn Jasper (Marthasville, Mo./U. of Missouri) and Danny Wax (Pacific Palisades, Calif./U. of Denver) and 2008 Utah Championship winner Brendon Todd (Atlanta, Ga./U. of Georgia) will take turns blogging during tournament weeks.
DID YOU KNOW?: If a player on the Nationwide Tour plays all 26 events and makes the cut in every one, he will walk more than 745,000 yards or 423 miles this year.
BIRTHDAY BOYS: Several Nationwide Tour players will celebrate birthdays this week: Kevin Johnson (turns 43 on 4/25), David Lutterus (26 on 4/25), Kyle Thompson (32 on 4/25) and Todd Bailey (43 on 4/30).
NEXT WEEK: The Stadion Classic at UGA in Athens, Ga. (May 5-8), home of the U. of Georgia Bulldogs. UGA Golf Course is the host site.
SOCIAL MEDIA: Fans can follow the Nationwide Tour on Twitter (http://twitter.com/nationwidetour) and Facebook