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Pro hooper-turned-amateur golfer JR Smith made his collegiate golfing debut on Monday. The two-time NBA champion hit the links as a walk-on member of the North Carolina A&T men’s team, competing in Elon’s Phoenix Invitational. Smith finished his two-round introduction into college tournament golf at 19-over.
Not unlike many other college newbies hitting the course for the first time, Smith had some jitters telling ESPN: “I was nervous. I was. I didn’t really know what to expect.”
August 11, 2021: JR Smith enrolls at North Carolina A&T; announces he will play golf for the @NCATaggies.
October 11, 2021: After qualifying for the tournament by just a single stroke, the 2x NBA Champ makes his collegiate debut at the Phoenix Invitational.
— Boardroom (@boardroom) October 11, 2021
Smith started slow, shooting a 12-over-par 83 in the opening round, before bouncing back with a 7-over-par 78 in the second tournament’s second round.
“He found out today that collegiate golf is not easy,” said N.C. A&T coach Richard Watkins via the school’s website. “I thought he did well. We are pleased, but we are not pleased to the point of satisfaction. But I thought he had a good showing today.”
Smith, 36, who hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy as a member of the Lakers championship team exactly one year before his NCAA golf debut, birdied three times at the Phoenix Invitational. He had two birdies in the opening round and a third on a 564-yard par 5 of Monday’s second round.
“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,” added Watkins. “And I think he learned some lessons out there today.”
Following his up and down performance, Smith is now eager to hone his skills.
“It was actually a very humbling feeling,” said Smith, per ESPN. “Again, I’m ready to go to that range to work on it. I had fun, but I don’t like losing,”
Smith and his Aggie teammates entered Tuesday in 11th place (out of 13 teams) prior to the morning’s third and final round.