NBA's J.R. Smith Plays Golf with Special Olympics Superstar

By Jon Ackerman
Thursday August 21st, 2014 6:24 pm EDT

instagram.com/jaredzwerling

New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith at one point was said to have a golf handicap in the single digits. In May, when he took over the Players Championship’s Twitter account, that number was up to 13.

So he’s presumably been on the course this summer working on fine-tuning his swing. After all, he needs to keep his name among those known as the best NBA golfers.

Smith was out on the links Thursday, as he hosted the J.R. Smith Youth Foundation’s 8th Annual Golf Outing at Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Lakewood, N.J. With the sweet swing, head-to-toe Nike gear, and cameras trained directly on him, you could have been forgiven for thinking he was Tiger Woods:

Among the youngsters playing with Smith was Brad Hennefer, according to Jared Zwerling, an NBA analyst for Bleacher Report who posted these videos and images to Instagram:

If Hennefer’s swing looks pretty sweet as well, that’s because the 25-year-old with Down syndrome has been playing Special Olympics golf tournaments for 14 years. “I have like 20 or 30 gold medals,” he told the Courier-Post (N.J.).

Hennefer’s most recent medal is his most impressive: a gold from the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games in June. The golf tournament took place at Mercer Oaks Golf Course in West Windsor Township, N.J., and he won it playing alongside his older brother, Bob.

“From my standpoint, it is kind of like a crowning achievement for Special Olympics for our career,” said Bob, who is a PGA professional at Indian Springs Golf Club in Marlton, N.J. “It was just awesome. Just to be on the national stage was pretty special.”

The Hennefer brothers played what is called a Unified Sports Alternate Shot Team Play Competition, in which an athlete with an intellectual disability is teamed with a partner without such a disability. They play the same ball on each hole, alternating their shots. And the tournament consisted of three rounds of nine holes.

With a score of 132, Brad and Bob qualified for the 2016 International Special Olympics in Los Angeles.

To prepare for the international stage, Brad will continue to work on his game while he continues to run his Golf for Life program, which helps people with Down syndrome learn the game of golf. And he’ll continue to match his skills with low-handicap golfers like Smith.

Related: J.R. Smith Goes Inside Ropes at Players Championship

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