BURLINGTON, NC – JR Smith walked into a hornet’s nest at 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 when he finished his round for North Carolina A&T on the second day of Elon’s Phoenix Invitational on Tuesday.
“Getting stabbed on the basketball court or in an arena never happens,” said Smith, now a freshman. “It’s one of the very few things you don’t have to worry about [in basketball] — other animals. When I was stung, I thought ‘no way’. “
The hornets only added to the sting of Smith’s outlawed round 8 over par 79 on the Donald Ross designed layout. Together with his two rounds on Monday, he finished 29 over 240 – in 81st place out of 84 entries.
Smith said he was determined to improve knowing that others are paying attention. He communicated with Sun’s guard Chris Paul after the two rounds on Monday and heard from former NBA teammates as part of a group text.
“I’ve had a lot of great feedback,” said Smith. “Chris Paul told me the guys in the locker room were talking about it. The guys are really looking for my results so I have to take care of business so when I see them there won’t be too much backlash. “
Nevertheless, he made an impression at the event. Well after the round, game partner Mason Whatley of the Presbyterian went to take a picture with Smith.
“He made golf cool for people,” Whatley said.
When the Hornets attacked, being an ambassador for the game wasn’t Smith’s top priority.
It happened on his third hole of the third round at the Alamance Country Club. His tee shot went off the fairway and was embedded in pine straw. He found the ball, but the wheel of his cart wheel rolled over the nest.
Smith shot away from the area and waved his arms before requiring treatment. Smith was given a 15-minute break from George Washington and Whatley, along with playing partners Florian Blatti, while other groups played through.
“I was trying to turn it into a positive,” Smith said, referring to getting dressed while sick in the NBA. “This could be your equivalent of a flu game.”
Smith had the sixth highest score out of six players on his team. The Aggies finished 11th in the 13-team field, 57 strokes behind the pace of tournament winner Elon.
Smith played in the NBA for 16 years, winning with Cleveland in 2016 and last year with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Florida Pandemic Bubble Championships. The Lakers’ title win came exactly a year before his debut as an Aggies golfer.
Smith said he had a round planned for next week with recently retired North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams. Smith was originally supposed to play basketball for Williams’ Tar Heels before moving straight to the NBA in 2004.