New Jersey Native, J.R. Smith Makes His College Golf Debut

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By James Adamo, Staff Writer

 

J.R. Smith did not show up to Rocket Mortgage stadium on October 11, but rather Alamance Country Club in North Carolina, not as a highly decorated NBA player but as a college golfer at A&T State University.

A multi-millionaire basketball athlete, J.R. Smith has had one very notable career, winning two championships alongside none other than LeBron James. However, Smith found himself next to college athletes shooting 83-78 on the green rather than on the court. 

The Jersey native, now retired NBA player, said to Sports Illustrated, “It’s a bucket list for me, to live my dream twice,” (Sports Illustrated). Smith’s golf journey began when A&T coach Richard Watkins heard from Chris Paul’s brother, C.J. that Smith was interested in attending the university and becoming a walk-on golf athlete. Smith was accepted into the university as a Liberal Studies major and began his classes in August. Watkins told Sports Illustrated, “During the day, he’s real simple, J.R.’s either in class, on his computer or at the golf course. Going to school is his first item on the agenda.”

Many proclaim it is nice to see a professional athlete turn into a college athlete, like Wayne Hills senior, Josh Flom, saying in an interview that, “J.R. Smith going from a veteran NBA player to a college golf athlete is simply an impressive feat.” Smith loved both sports, although the process of it was not all that easy. As a professional athlete turned amateur, the NCAA required Smith to track down high school transcripts. One even from his old high school, Saint Benedict’s Prep in Newark, New Jersey. 

Smith owes his start in golf to NBA legend and Hall-of-famer, Moses Malone. First at a charity event, Malone challenged Smith to start the sport and Smith listened. At first he would only play during his off days, taking leisurely swings, and as Watkins put it, “Smith was more used to casual or celebrity golf where balls in water hazards were just dropped without attention.” (Sports Illustrated). Smith eventually began to take the sport seriously once he retired from his 16-year career in the NBA, in 2020. 

Now Smith already has his first college tournament underneath his belt and things are looking up. Although a shaky performance, he appears to only expect better from himself as he continues to work on his craft. With Smith’s first rounds now complete, he can expect more attention to come. 

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