ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart recently shared a golf story about Nick Saban revealing Saban is just as competitive on the links as the gridiron.
“In golf (Saban) is probably the most competitive guy,” Smart said on the ‘All Things Covered’ podcast with Bryant McFadden last December.
“Not everyone enjoys playing golf with Nick because he’s not like the most personable. He’s not going to go out there and just talk and shoot the (manure) and tell stories in the tee box. He’s trying to win, trying to beat you.”
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Saban is known for that same competitive fire on the football sideline.
No one knows that better than Smart, who won four national championships as a member of Saban’s staff at Alabama and helped build the Tide into a dynasty.
Since coming to Georgia before the 2016 season, Smart has won three SEC East Division titles and is riding a four-year streak of Top 10 finishes.
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Smart has yet to beat Saban in football, but his Georgia teams have led Saban’s Alabama teams at halftime of each of the three meetings.
Most recently, the Bulldogs held a 24-20 lead at halftime in Tuscaloosa last season while playing former walk-on Stetson Bennett at quarterback against the eventual national champions.
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Saban, of course, has always found the winning edge, yet to lose to any of his former assistants (23-0).
It turns out the 69-year-old Saban is just as wile on the golf course, Smart revealed.
“So on the first tee box everyone has an unwritten rule, you get two (shots) off the first tee, like you’re getting warmed up,” Smart said. “So I’m going to hit two balls off the tee, I hit my first one bad, and I’m like, ‘alright, I’ll get my other one.’ “
Smart explained that there’s usually no time for warming up, so the extra shot off the first tee, the “mulligan,” is known as a courtesy.
“So I hit my second one out in the fairway, (and) he hits his first one out in the fairway pretty good, and he doesn’t use what he calls his mulligan, so he’s keeping that.”
That’s where Smart said the two have a disagreement — on the usage of the so-called mulligan.
“Where I play, you don’t get a mulligan later on, you use it on the first hole or that’s it,” Smart said. “So me and him are in a deadlocked match and we get to hole 18, and I’m finally up on him like two strokes up on 18, I’ve got him. I hit the ball right down the middle on 18. I know I’m going to win now.
“He hits his drive on 18 out in the woods and he says, ‘I’m going to use my mully.’ Like from the first hole. He’s going to use his mulligan and use it on that hole, and I’m like, ‘you can’t do that!’
“He uses it on the hole and ends up tying me, and he still claims I never beat him. I’m like, ‘That’s not right, you can’t pull out a mulligan on 18.’ “
Smart doesn’t have time for much outside of football and his family, but an occasional round of golf is the one hobby he allows for.
Smart shared memories of playing at Augusta National with his father, and how special that was, after Saturday’s UGA football scrimmage.
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On McFadden’s podcast, Smart revealed the ranking of the top 5 football coaches he has played golf with.
“I would probably say Hugh Freeze is the best I’ve ever been around, Hugh Freeze would be One, Nick probably would be two, and that’s amazing because Nick’s a little bit older, but Nick hits the ball really well,” Smart said.
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“Three, I’d probably say Matt Luke would be three. Mel Tucker can play some golf at Michigan State and last would probably be Gus Malzahn.”
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