Atlanta’s Big Three ready for another golf showdown

April 19th, 2024

IRVING, Texas -- would take his chances of getting Tony Gwynn out with the bases loaded more than he would take his chances of getting up and down from 15 yards off the green. It doesn’t matter that Gwynn had a .444 lifetime average with the bases loaded.

“It all boils down to trust,” Glavine said. “I have way less trust in this game than I did in my baseball game.”

But golf has been and remains a passion for Glavine and his other counterparts who formed the Atlanta Braves’ “Big Three” from 1993-2002. Glavine, and -- all Hall of Famers who helped turn the Braves into consistent contenders, highlighted by winning the 1995 World Series -- were known for their dominance on the mound as well as their love for golf away from it.

Now, in their post-baseball playing days, golf remains a staple. All three are taking part in the celebrity division of the Invited Celebrity Classic at Las Colinas Country Club, a tournament on the PGA Tour Champions circuit that features 78 professionals and 40 celebrities. The tournament starts Friday and will be televised on the Golf Channel. Friday’s coverage will be tape delayed, airing from 9-11 p.m. ET. on Saturday, while Sunday will air live from 5-7 p.m. ET.

John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux speak at the Invited Celebrity Classic. (Photo via Drew Davison) touched on a number of golf-related topics with the trio before the event, ranging from playing with Tiger Woods to using golf as an escape from the baseball grind.

On playing with Tiger

At the top of the Big Three’s list for golfing adventures is playing with Woods. They became friends and met up for rounds with the legendary golfer when the Braves moved their Spring Training headquarters to the Orlando, Fla., area in 1998.

“I remember the first time I played with him, we got to the eighth hole and we both hit our shots in the greenside bunker,” Glavine said. “I was walking to the green and I looked at him and said, ‘Hey, you forgot your putter.’ He said, ‘Oh, I won’t need it.’ Then he hit it to about two inches so I was like, ‘OK. I won’t remind you of that anymore.’”

Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine at the 1997 Bob Hope Invitational.Getty Images

Glavine chuckled about the memory and added: “He was young back then and he had that ferocious swing and hit the ball a country mile. It was fun to watch.”

Maddux provided another glimpse into Woods’ greatness. On the driving range, Maddux recalled, Woods would shape shots that hooked and sliced in every direction. On the course, Maddux remembered playing a 625-yard par 5 with Woods. Maddux assumed it wasn’t possible to reach the green in two for a golfer of any level. After all, it was 625 yards. Woods isn’t the typical golfer, of course, and made it to the green in two shots with a driver and a long iron. He then knocked in his eagle putt.

“It’s fantasy golf,” Maddux said of playing with Woods. “The impressive thing that I didn’t realize was how high he played, the height he hit the golf ball. It was no different than watching Mark McGwire take batting practice. He just hit it higher and further than everybody. That’s what Tiger did. It was cool to see because you don’t really see that on TV.”

For Smoltz, the fondest memory of playing with Woods was on a Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club, about two weeks before the Masters. Smoltz is eternally grateful that longtime Braves manager Bobby Cox allowed him to leave Spring Training for the day.

“It had nothing to do with playing Augusta. I had played Augusta. It was playing Augusta with Tiger on a Sunday and they had all Sunday pins for him,” Smoltz said. “It was one of the greatest memories of seeing the world’s greatest player on that stage, even though it wasn’t the tournament. He just carved it up. He shot a 66. I shot a 76.”

On playing golf during the baseball season

Smoltz: “The biggest thing was pitching in and of itself is very mechanical. It can be all-consuming. I needed something to get away from that, so when I stepped on the golf course, besides having fun with these guys, I didn’t think about mechanics. I just played and never wanted two things to be mechanical. It was a good outlet.

“The biggest thing that people have a misunderstanding about us is, whether it was Spring Training or the season, we did all of our work. We never took it for granted. We never got sloppy, and Bobby knew that so he was OK with whatever we had planned to do.”

Glavine: “Bobby knew that it was never going to get in the way of our preparation to pitch and that was first and foremost. We knew that. It never did. We did what we had to do to be prepared to pitch and that was our outlet.”

Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux hit the range to prepare for the Invited Celebrity Classic. (Photo via Invited Celebrity Classic)

On their message to position players who may have been jealous

Smoltz: “My line to them always was, ‘You had a choice when you were in Little League to be a position player or a pitcher. You chose wrongly.’”

Maddux, smiling: “They had their chance to pitch. They wanted to hit. Choices have consequences.”