36-year-old, two-time NBA champion J.R. Smith hopped into his first college golf tournament this past Tuesday, competing for North Carolina A&T on the second day of Elon’s Phoenix International. However, Smith was not prepared for what would happen when he was golfing that day. While on the third hole of the third round at Alamance Country Club, Smith’s tee shot ended up rolling off the fairway and was embedded in pine straw. When attempting to retrieve the ball, his pull cart rolled into a hornet’s nest, which led to Smith running wildly out of the area, flailing his arms, before needing treatment.
After this happened, Smith was given a 15-minute break alongside partners Florian Blatti and Whately, receiving treatment for the hornet stings. Animal attacks on the golf course aren’t anything new. In the past year, a Colorado golfer had their kidney sliced in half by an elk goring him, while a Connecticut golfer was attacked by a rabid bobcat. And many Floridian golfers have had unpleasantly close encounters with alligators while golfing. In 2014, Spanish golfer Pablo Larrabazzal was attacked by hornets while coming down the fifth hole, having to leap into a lake to escape. There have even been bizarre incidents like where a golfer was attacked by a frog, and one time a seagull stole a golf ball right from the course.
But for Smith, who has spent his entire time playing basketball in a closed stadium, this was all a new experience for him. The NBA star, who retired this past year after winning his second championship with the Cavaliers, became a college student and started to play golf for North Carolina this past year. Although Smith has been playing golf for the past 12 years and honing his skills in the process, all of it is secondary compared to the idea of going back to school. Smith said that he wanted to give back to his community and that it was for a better cause. Smith started school a couple of months ago and is struggling to balance his responsibilities as a celebrity college student and student-athlete, but nonetheless, he is excited to play golf. Although his debut this past week has been something of a rough start with him being stung by hornets, the real bummer was going birdie-less during his first round. He shot a total of 80, placing 81st out of 84 contestants.
Still, Smith was taught several lessons about playing golf as a college student, and of course, dealing with the dangers of playing sports outside while also learning how to play golf the best way possible. Smith remarked that the feeling of not performing well in a game was “humbling” and that golf can be a game that can bring people very high or very low. But at the end of the day, all of this is a new learning experience for the former basketball player. After 16 years on the basketball court, trying something new has been a welcome venue for Smith, and he cares more about his education than really trying more to yuk it up in the spotlight of being a famous NBA player. Instead of living the retired life of luxury, Smith’s taken to school and to the golf course. It’s possible he could be a great golfer - after all, many spoke highly of him on the golf course when he played in 2016. But for now, many will remember his debut having him walking off the course stung - literally.