Golf is relaxing—if you don’t take the game too seriously. It’s good outdoor exercise—if you avoid the cart and walk 18. And it’s generally pretty safe—as long as you avoid the bees. 36-year-old former NBA star turned freshman walk-on to North Carolina A&T’s golf squad J.R. Smith did not avoid the bees during his first collegiate-level golf tournament.
J.R. Smith had a 16 year NBA career and is a two-time world champion as a result. Now, he’s turned his athletic prowess and NCAA eligibility to a considerably slower game—golf. And before anyone starts getting the wrong idea, Smith’s golf pursuits are legit. He enrolled at the Greensboro, NC college and has been attending classes since late August.
On Monday, the walk-on golfer began his first-ever collegiate tournament, the Elon Phoenix Invitational at Alamance Country Club. His final round got underway this morning, which turned out to be slightly more eventful than your typical 18 holes.
On the 12th hole, J.R. Smith hit a wild shot into the woods, per The New York Post. Most of us golf-inclined Outsiders know his predicament well. Maybe a little too well for some of us, unfortunately. But where casual golfers go hiking to find their wayward balls because they only have a few left in the bag, J.R. Smith did it because he was in the middle of tournament play. He was determined to find that ball.
While treading through the woods, Smith made accidental contact with a hive of yellow jackets. They swarmed, as they do, and stung unmercifully around his ankles. He received medical attention from the training staff and was able to finish his round.
J.R. Smith’s Coach Was Pleased with the Walk-On’s Performance, Said He ‘Learned Some Lessons’
J.R. Smith’s debut tournament performance was far from perfect. He got off to a hot start, sinking two birdies through his first five holes on Monday. From there, his rounds became a bit of a rollercoaster. Even the pros can have it all working one minute and completely lose their touch the next. So, all things considered, his 10-over 81 debut round finish showed a lot of promise.
The North Carolina A&T Aggies’ golf coach, Richard Watkins, liked what he saw from the 36-year old freshman.
“That first 18 was just to get his feet wet. Then he buckled down, and I was really pleased with what he did that second 18, because education doesn’t come cheap. And I think he learned some lessons out there today,” said Watkins, per ESPN.