J.R. Smith lined up a putt from around 12 feet on the opening hole of the round. It's the same putt that Knicks' coaches Mike Woodson and Herb Williams, former Knick Allan Houston, and newest Knick/younger brother Chris Smith all just missed. He steps up to the ball and calmly rolls it in to the bottom of the cup.
“That's why I brought you here!” Woodson exclaimed excitedly as the group walked off the green.
The group was gathered at Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Lakewood, New Jersey for Sixth Annual J.R. Smith Youth Foundation Golf Classic. 100 golfers took to the golf course yesterday, the largest turnout that the event has had, J.R.'s father, Earl Smith, said.
“This year and the first year were the biggest,” Smith said. “Last year we had the hurricane come through and we had to reschedule from the original date, so not as many people could show up then. We still got 40 or 50, but nothing like today.”
This was the second year the event was being held at Eagle Ridge, and the proceeds from the event all benefitted Smith's youth foundation, which he started when he got into the league.
“J.R. always wanted to give back,” Earl said. “We applied for 2004 and got approved in 2005. The foundation helps underprivileged kids that can't afford things like gymnastics, uniforms, food stamps, etc. Through the foundation, kids can get sponsored for a year to get all of those things paid for.
“He does so many things to give back,” Earl continued. “He holds a back-to-school night, gives out turkeys on Thanksgiving, and provides gifts on Christmas every year. People don't get to see this side of him, so it's a great chance for people to see that.”
It was apparent how much joy Smith got from the event. Young kids came up for high fives. Golfers gathered to take pictures with him. Smiles could be seen all around, especially from J.R. There were few moments where he wasn't laughing or kidding around with Coach Woodson or the other golfers.
One new participant this year was J.R.'s younger brother, Chris. He'd been unable to attend in each of the previous five years because he was always back in school when it took place.
“It feels great to be here. It's my first year with the team, I get to play with J.R., and now I finally get a chance to play in this,” Chris said. He also has an affinity for the sport of golf, one that he says started before his older brother's. “I started playing before him, when I was 12. He saw me, but he was never interested until a couple years later until he started to play with me.”
Chris is a big proponent of the foundation, and hopes to keep the family trend of giving back alive during his career.
“It's great what the foundation does, how many kids it helps. Hopefully in the future, we can combine our efforts and make it even better.”
So how did the golf turn out? The team of the Smith brothers, Houston, Woodson and Williams looked very formidable. J.R. knocked his tee shot on one par-three to within ten feet, where Houston was able to complete the birdie. On the next tee, Houston absolutely demolished his tee shot. Williams and Woodson also showed that their no slouches on the links.
But while some of the shots sliced and hooked and a few putts fell short, this event was never really about the golf. Nor was it about the auction or dinner afterwards. It was about giving back. And in that regard, with a great turnout and some big names there to help out, it was a resounding success for J.R. Smith and his foundation.