Swish swish, I’m a three-point shooter

Mr. Smith goes to college, and the PGA Tour makes it rain


Fair warning, this newsletter is filled with subheads that require context. If you’re confused by the main headline, get ready.

You trying to pipe this drive?

On October 11, 2021, exactly one year after winning an NBA Championship with the Los Angeles Lakers, J.R. Smith laced up his shoes in an entirely different arena. He played as the No. 5 man on the North Carolina A&T golf team at the Elon Phoenix Invitational. With rounds of 83-78-79 and an 81st-place finish, Smith’s collegiate golf career got underway.

Never in our wildest dreams did we think we’d start this golf newsletter with a story about J.R. Smith, but here we are. Back in August, when Smith announced his intention to go back to school, get his degree, and play on the golf team, it all seemed pretty far-fetched. This was the guy who delighted in untying opponents’ shoelaces at the free-throw line, after all.

But over the past couple of months, Smith has made it clear that he wants to be a genuine student-athlete. He hit putts on a crowded practice green, trekked out to the 5th hole for a shotgun start, and even suffered an encounter with a beehive! If he had pulled up to the tournament in a smelly 15-seat van instead of a Bentley, the experience would have been complete.

Joking aside, Smith did a lot more than play golf this week. Just by teeing it up, he drew the attention of the larger sports world. Lebron James, Larry Fitzgerald, and Carmelo Anthony all tweeted their support for him on Monday. Plus, Smith’s specific involvement with North Carolina A&T, an HBCU, could make a real difference in the effort to open up golf to a more diverse population. All in all, the J.R. Smith golf experiment is off to a promising start.

Jerry, you better yell!

Because the PGA Tour has more money than it knows what to do with, increasingly absurd methods have to be invented to distribute it to players. According to a report from Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard, the Tour’s latest gambit is the “Play 15 Bonus.” In the 2021-22 season, players who make at least 15 starts will receive a cool $50,000.

Of the top 150 players from the 2020-21 FedEx Cup standings, 149 made 15 starts or more. (Pause while we do the math….) So the PGA Tour is planning to hand out at least $2.2 million just for participation. Could this be another tactic to encourage players not to take guaranteed money from any mysterious, nay, premier golf leagues that might pop up in the future?

The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America

Swope Memorial Golf Course (Kansas City, Missouri)


Swope Memorial in Kansas City is a rarity: a true municipal golf course designed by one of the six architects in the World Golf Hall of Fame. Built by A.W. Tillinghast in 1934, Swope sits on a rollicking piece of ground, its fairways draped across side slopes and most of its greens situated on ridges. It’s a sophisticated routing that creates excellent variety from hole to hole. No doubt Swope could use some TLC; the cart-path placement on some holes is obnoxious, and the greens and fairways have shrunk over time. But much of Tillinghast’s original design is still there, making Swope a strong candidate for a cost-effective restoration. A talented young architect could make this one of the best municipal courses in the country.

Insider tip: If you’re visiting from out of town, stop at the original Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que on West 47th Avenue and get a Z-Man. Speaking from personal experience, though, you might have some trouble walking the course afterwards. -Andy Johnson

Swope Memorial Golf Course. Photo credit: Andy Johnson

Quick Hooks

It’s International Holding Company Week as the limited-field CJ Cup gets underway at the Summit Club outside of Las Vegas. Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Summit member Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka, and Rory McIlroy have lined up for their free money. Tee Times

In contrast to the desert landscapes on the PGA Tour, the European Tour takes on the bowling alleys of Valderrama this week. Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Min Woo Lee, and Bernd Wiesberger are among the notables at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters. Tee Times

The USGA and R&A have announced a local rule limiting the length of golf clubs (excluding putters) to 46 inches. Unless you’re Phil Mickelson and jonesing to lob complaints at the governing bodies on Twitter, this probably doesn’t affect you. If you are Phil Mickelson, well, thanks for reading The Fried Egg Newsletter! Please tell all your friends to subscribe.

Also included in Rex Hoggard’s reporting this week: the purses for the 2022 Players Championship and small-field Sentry Tournament of Champions will jump to $20 million and $8 million, respectively.

The Latest from The Fried Egg

October Musings – It’s been a busy fall for Andy Johnson. Before heading to our final Fried Egg event of 2021, he jotted down a few notes on what he’s seen and heard in the world of golf architecture recently.

Paulie’s Picks: CJ Cup – Is this week as easy as picking the two-time major winner and Summit Club member? Yes and no. Paulie explains.

The Fried Egg Podcast – In the latest edition of our Superintendent Series, Andy Johnson talks with Boston Golf Club’s Rodney Hine. Brought to you by the Toro Company. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

The Shotgun Start – Andy and Brendan get tempted into various digressions, but eventually they discuss the USGA’s new local rule, the Players purse bump, J.R. Smith’s collegiate adventures, and the CJ Cup. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Pro Shop

J.R. Smith traded in his (occasionally) wet jumper for a North Carolina A&T golf bag, and now he needs to keep his clubs dry and clean. He should consider a Fried Egg towel!