When JR Smith enrolled at North Carolina A&T with dreams of competing in golf at the college level, people said the 36-year-old former NBA player was stepping into a lion’s den of uncharted athletic challenges.
We know that many athletes play golf recreationally, but we had no clue whether JR had the skills to pay the bills.
Turns out that it wasn’t the king of the jungle, but a hornets nest that gave Smith some problems in his debut college tournament.
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) October 11, 2021
Smith stepped into a hornets nest and was literally stung while completing his round Tuesday for North Carolina A&T on the second day of Elon’s Phoenix Invitational.
“To get stung on the basketball court or in an arena, never happens,” said Smith, who went straight from high school to the NBA in 2004 and is now the most popular freshmen on the North Carolina-based campus.
“That’s one of the very few things you don’t have to worry about [in basketball] — other animals, “ Smith added. “When I got stung, I was like ‘No way.’”
Smith’s celebrity has brought attention to the HBCU and an increased amount of media coverage to their otherwise unknown golf team.
Players from opposing schools asked for photographs and pics after Smith completed his rounds.
According to ESPN, Smith’s playing partner, Mason Whatley of Presbyterian, said the two-time NBA champion “has made golf cool for people.”
Imagine playing your first golf tourney in college and you are paired with JR Smith pic.twitter.com/Nt8GAjFvgt
— Old Row Golf (@OldRowGolf) October 13, 2021
The NBA vet also turned some heads when he pulled up to the tournament.
JR Smith pulled up to his first college golf tournament in a Bentley 🐐
(Via IG/uncle_demp) pic.twitter.com/KCmDHqE1tE
— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) October 11, 2021
But Is He Good?
The question remains. Can Smith handle himself on the links?
He was a sharp-shooter in the NBA for 16 seasons, but he hasn’t quite found his stroke on the greens. Smith shot a birdie-less round of 8-over-par 79 on the Donald Ross-designed layout. Combined with his two rounds Monday, he finished at 29 over 240 — in 81st place out 84 competitors.
His Aggie team didn’t fare much better, finishing 11th out of 13 teams in the tournament and 57 shots off the lead.
Smith obviously has a lot of room for improvement, but his poor performance doesn’t lessen the intrigue of Smith’s presence on the team. He says he understands that he is an ambassador for the sport and will have to step up his game.
Checking In With The NBA Brotherhood
According to reports, Smith spoke with Suns point god Chris Paul and others after his two rounds were done on Monday, and he’s also received encouragement from other NBA friends with whom he shares a text group.
“I got a lot of great feedback,” Smith told reporters. “Chris Paul was telling me guys were talking about it in the locker room. Guys are really looking for my scores, so I got to take care of business so when I see them it ain’t going to be too much backlash.”
JR Being JR
Smith wouldn’t be himself if he just played golf and nothing out of the ordinary happened.
He’s been a part of some of the most emotion-provoking, perplexing and meme-inspired moments in NBA history. Playing alongside legends such as LeBron James has also elevated his brand and nororitey.
After getting stung, it’s reported that Smith ran away flailing his arms before being treated by medics. He was allowed a 15-minute break.
The memes followed, like clockwork.
JR Smith was stung by hornets in his NCAA golfing debut. Because of course. pic.twitter.com/NsClbqiuoX
— Damon Amendolara (@DAonCBS) October 12, 2021
Smith summed the day up perfectly and oddly, comparing his battle with the wasps to one of Michael Jordan’s most iconic NBA moments.
“This might be your equivlant of a flu game [in golf],” Smith said.
If anything, golf at A&T has gotten a lot more unpredictable with JR Smith in the mix.