Smoltz can't close out win in celebrity golf tourney
DRIVING WITH DR. J Julius Erving, known to NBA fans as "Dr. J", tees off during Dancing Rabbit's Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament. When he retired from the NBA in 1987, Erving ranked third in scoring, third in most field goals made, fifth most field goals attempted and first in most steals. Photo by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Jeff Byrd / staff writer
Nov. 11, 2002
PHILADELPHIA Being the best closer in the National League, Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz knows a thing or two about pressure.
On Sunday afternoon at the Dancing Rabbit Golf Club, Smoltz faced a 20-foot putt on the 18th green at the Oaks Course.
He needed to sink the putt in order to put pressure on one of the best professional athletes who can also play some golf in former Tennessee Titans' kicker Al Del Greco.
The line, the speed, looked there. The putt, however, fell a centimeter short.
Smoltz showed his disgust by falling backwards, moaning the fates of the links.
Del Greco then made a five-foot par putt to win the first-ever Celebrity Invitational at Dancing Rabbit on the Pearl River Resort.
The 32-player tournament was hailed as one of the largest gatherings of sports celebrities ever in Mississippi. It was produced by Career Sports Management out of Atlanta.
The field consisted mainly of retired pro athletes from a wide spectrum of sports including Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA, tennis, the NHL and the winter olympics.
Smoltz and his former teammate Steve Avery, who teamed up to claim the team title, were the only still active athletes in the field.
No one, though, seemed to have more fun than three of the all-time greats in basketball. Julius "Dr. J" Erving may not have a great golf game but he and partner Bill Russell, an 11-time NBA champion from the Boston Celtics, certainly livened things up in the corporate tent. They were joined by the "Ice Man" George Gervin.
You couldn't get the ball high in this wind. I kept the ball real low and I was able to score today," said Gervin who finished the day with a solid three-over par 75.
Dancing Rabbit Golf Club Executive Patrick O'Keefe feels the athletes enjoyed the event so much that a second one will be in the works for next year.
Truck Robinson, a former NBA great at power forward, said both the Azaleas and the Oaks Course provided a different challenge.
Smoltz did not have such problems, as Del Greco can attest.
Smoltz offered one of the day's more amusing comments after Del Greco stuck his approach shot at the par-3 17th.
Afterwards, he was still in a pretty good mood, missed putt and all.
Del Greco finished with a two-day total of a four-under, 140. He shot a 3-under 69 on Saturday and then had a 71 on Sunday.
Smoltz was a shot back at 141 (71-70).
Former Cincinnati Red Chris Sabo, hockey player Pierre Larouche and tennis great Ivan Lendl all tied for third at 149. Former St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Vince Coleman, Avery, major leaguer Tom Lawless and Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt all finished at 150.