NBA champion JR Smith is now the most famous college golfer in the country. The former NBA star decided not only to go get a college degree after calling it a career on the basketball court, but he is embracing the college experience in a way you rarely see from a former pro athlete.
Smith is a constant presence on campus at North Carolina A&T, often live-tweeting the ups and downs of college life, sweating out pop quizzes and late night study sessions like any other student. He’s also joined the school’s golf team after being cleared by the NCAA to do so, and on Monday he made his first start in a tournament for the Aggies at the Elon Phoenix Invitational in Burlington, North Carolina.
The first nine holes for Smith — who started on the fifth hole — went quite well, as he was 1-over with a pair of birdies and only two blemishes (a bogey and a double) on his card. You can check out some of the highlights from the local news crew that followed him on his first nine, which include a couple darts to set up his birdies and some quality up and downs to salvage pars.
followed @TheRealJRSmith for the first five holes today in his first tournament as a member of the @NCATAGGIES Golf Team. Had a pair of birdies, a great chip and stuck his approach on No. 9 to within a foot from the pin. @WFMY @ncatsuaggies pic.twitter.com/s7q6rpk1pa
— Brian Hall (@bhallwfmy) October 11, 2021
Unfortunately for Smith, his second nine wasn’t as friendly. He had settled in with five straight pars when things went off the tracks in the final eight holes. Smith made seven bogeys and a double coming down the stretch to post a 10-over 81. It’s not how Smith would’ve drawn it up for his first tournament round, but it also is the kind of round that gives him plenty to build on. Those highlights from his first nine show a swing that’s in control and on tempo, as well as a really smooth putting stroke. Whatever happened to get a little loose on the second nine is just life on the golf course, as we’ve all been there — especially in tournament golf where it can be difficult to put it back on track when things start going wrong.
The good news is he’ll have a chance to try and turn it around in the second round of the tournament, and if nothing else this is a learning experience for someone who, for all his experience playing in high-stakes games in the NBA, is just getting his first taste of tournament golf.