BURLINGTON, NC — JR Smith got into a hornet’s nest in his first college golf tournament, and it had nothing to do with his high score.
The 36-year-old two-time NBA champion was literally stung by hornets while completing his round Tuesday for North Carolina A&T on the second day of Elon’s Phoenix Invitational.
“Getting stabbed on the basketball court or in an arena never happens,” said Smith, now a freshman walk-on. “That’s one of the few things you don’t have to worry about [in basketball] — other animals. When I got stabbed, I was like, ‘No way.'”
The Hornets have just been added to the sting of Smith’s birdieless round of 8-over-par 79 on the Donald Ross-designed layout. Combined with his two rounds monday, he finished 29 over 240 — in 81st place out of 84 entries.
Smith said he is determined to improve because he knows that others are paying attention. He communicated with Suns security guard Chris Paul after Monday’s two rounds and heard from ex-NBA teammates as part of a group text.
“I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback,” Smith said. “Chris Paul told me guys were talking about it in the locker room. Guys are really looking for my scores so I have to sort things out so if I see them it won’t be too much backlash.”
Still, he made an impression at the event. Well after the round, Presbyterian playing partner Mason Whatley had a photo taken with Smith.
“He’s made golf cool for people,” Whatley said.
When the Hornets attacked, an ambassador for the game was not Smith’s top priority.
It happened on his third hole of the third round at Alamance Country Club. His tee shot went off the fairway and became embedded in pine straw. He found the ball, but the wheel of his pull-cart rolled over the nest.
Smith darted away from that area, swinging his arms, before requiring treatment. Smith, along with playing partners Florian Blatti of George Washington and Whatley, were given a 15-minute break while other groups continued to play.
“I tried to make it something positive,” Smith said, referring to passing while I was sick in the NBA. “This can be your equivalent of a flu game.”
Smith had the sixth best score of six players on his team. The Aggies finished 11th out of 13 teams, 57 shots off the pace of tournament champion Elon.
Smith played in the NBA for 16 years, winning championships with Cleveland in 2016 and with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Florida pandemic bubble last year. The Lakers’ title win came just one year before his debut as an Aggies golfer.
Smith said he has tentative rounds next week with recently retired North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams. Smith was originally going to play basketball for Williams’ Tar Heels before going straight to the NBA in 2004.
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