Ex-NBA guard JR Smith wants to make golf more accessible

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JR Smith followed his own path to golf, from high school basketball star to 16-year NBA veteran and now senior-than-normal college athlete at North Carolina A&T.

He wants his story to help others feel comfortable about starting to exercise.

“There’s definitely a place in the game for everyone,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter what color, age or gender you are – there is a place in this game for everyone.”

That is Smith’s message with the launch of a video podcast on Wednesday with the aim of making the sport more accessible to a young and diverse audience. The weekly Par 3 Podcast features Smith, renowned high-end jeweler Ben Baller, and co-founder of Malbon Golf lifestyle and apparel company Stephen Malbon.

Smith started playing while in the NBA. Malbon starred as a teenager and then returned as an adult. Baller is the late bloomer who has gone all in with golf over the past year.

Shows cover topics from gear, fashion, brands and trends to the personal ups and downs of the hosts on the scorecard. It’s designed to get three golfers to talk candidly about the game they love, and do it in a way that makes the sport feel universally welcome rather than limited to a select group based on race, wealth or social status .

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That’s important in a sport with a troubled past on racial issues, like the PGA of America banning black professional players until the white clause is repealed in 1961.

“If you think about the older version of the game compared to this newer modern version where so many different kids from different backgrounds and communities actually play the game, it’s not just that boring old white sport anymore,” Smith told The The Bharat Express News. . “We break those barriers and we want to break those barriers continuously, because that’s an old way of life, think. And it wasn’t right.

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“If we can have this kind of platform with Stephen, Ben and myself, I feel like it’s breaking down those barriers all the time. And show people you can be – whether it’s a skateboarder or jeweler or designer or basketball player – you can be any walk of life… and you can still have the same love and joy and passion for a sport like golf.

Malbon talked about playing golf with his 10-year-old son, referring to his interest in attracting young players and keeping them engaged for a long time.

As he put it, “You can like Wu Tang (Clan) and be really good at golf, and that’s totally okay.”

It helped when Smith, a two-time NBA world champion, chose to attend a historically black college or university and play golf, following a 2021 push by the league and its players to transform HBCU traditions and culture. to support.

“He made it cool,” said Baller, who is leaving his jewelry business to pursue full-time play. ‘Cause JR is a cool dude. You see JR and he had this (NBA) bad-boy persona. But then you meet JR in person… and I’m like, ‘OK, he really respects the game in its purest form.’”

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Smith’s transition to the 37-year-old college golfer brought a lot of attention to the sport, as did the work of current NBA star Stephen Curry, who helped Howard launch his golf program and has worked to improve access for young people through his UNDERRAATDE Golf project.

“It sends out the message of, you can be who you are, you don’t have to apologize for who you are,” Malbon said. “You can just go for it and get better every day. And I think (Smith’s) shows that, which is great.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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TBEN golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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