SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The Utah Open is this week and it’s being hosted by the Riverside Country Club which happens to be the favorite golf course of Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith. During Thursday’s events, Smith discussed which Jazz players have taken up golf, and his relationship with former BYU legend Danny Ainge.
Though the COVID-19 pandemic was a major setback for the world of sports, it presented a unique opportunity for NBA players who completed the 2019-20 season at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.
One of the perks made available for players who traveled to the bubble was access to three Disney World golf courses where many NBA players took up golf for the first time.
“Everyone’s playing golf now,” Smith said. “A lot of this for the NBA guys started in the bubble where everyone went to the bubble with a set of golf clubs.”
The league has several avid golfers superstars Chris Paul and Steph Curry but has started to take a firmer grip across the NBA.
“People who had never grown up playing are now playing,” Smith said. “Whether it’s Dwyane Wade, or Mike Conley or Donovan [Mitchell] playing, I’ve played a lot of golf with all of them.”
Conley had been an avid golfer throughout his life, but recently Wade, who bought a share of the team in April, and Jazz players like Mitchell and Royce O’Neale have shared their interest in the game on social media.
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“I think all of these guys playing is definitely a massive positive,” Smith said, “and incredible marketing and branding for the game of golf.”
Another famous name that routinely hits the links with Smith is BYU great and former Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge who recently stepped down from his position.
Despite being seen on the course together, Smith said there’s no reason to read into that relationship in regards to a future role with the Jazz front office.
“I’ve played golf with Danny Ainge for 20 years,” Smith said. “I know the media likes to write about it like there’s this thing going on with Danny, but Danny has been a mentor and a friend for 20 years.”
The Utah Open runs through the weekend and included the KSL Pro-Am that included former BYU quarterback Robbie Bosco, and Mitch Jensen and Ned Siegfried who also sponsored the event. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is among the names in Utah for the tournament.