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As a pitcher, John Smoltz didn't get too many swings in the major leagues.

But he always made up for that on the golf course.

And now, the Lansing native and Baseball Hall-of-Famer is set to compete in the U.S. Senior Open, after qualifying Thursday during sectional play in his home state of Georgia.

Smoltz, 51, fired a 3-under 69 at Planterra Ridge Golf Club in Peachtree City to earn the third and final spot available from that qualifier. The top two golfers edged him with 68s.

Smoltz had to go extra innings, err, extra holes to earn his spot. He won on the third playoff hole, sending packing two other players who shot 69. 

No surprise. Smoltz always was a big-game player in crunch time. (Remember the 1991 World Series?)

This will be Smoltz's major-golf debut, with the U.S. Senior Open, one of five majors on the PGA Champions Tour, set for June 28 to July 1 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Smoltz long has been an avid golfer, and carries a 1.5 handicap, according to scores he's posted through the United States Golf Association. He's a member at Hawks Ridge Golf Club in Ball Ground, Ga., about an hour north of Atlanta.

Smoltz was a 22nd-round draft pick out of Lansing Waverly in 1985, and went on to pitch 22 seasons in the major leagues, all but one with the Atlanta Braves. The Braves acquired him in the summer of 1987, when the Tigers traded for veteran pitcher Doyle Alexander in the midst of a push for the playoffs.

That trade still irks Tigers fans, who wish their team would've been the one with which Smoltz racked up 213 wins and 154 saves. The 1987 Tigers, though, wouldn't have made the playoffs that year without Alexander, who went 9-0 in the regular season.

Also qualifying for the U.S. Senior Open was Grand Rapids' Tom Werkmeister, who shot a 68 to earn medalist honors at a qualifier at the Village Links of Glen Ellyn, Ill., on Wednesday.

Sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open is under way and continues through next week, featuring several area golfers, including outgoing Michigan Wolverine Kyle Mueller. He's looking to qualify for his second U.S. Open, with the 2018 tournament set for June 14-17 at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in New York.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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