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TGJ Podcast: Episode 79

My Friend, LaJethro

A popular internet tastemaker is new to the game, but his views on it are old-school

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The last year brought a legion of new golfers into the fold. Some will stay for good, and some are sure to fade away. But nine months into his newfound yet promising career, LaJethro Jenkins, of NBA internet and Jenkins & Jonez Podcast fame, is certain he’s in the game for life: “There’s nothing that moves me like this.” As fate would have it, TGJ Contributor Laz Versalles just happens to hit balls at the same public range where Jenkins now spends most of his days, and has quickly become his spiritual swing guide. So tag along with these fast friends as they raid the TGJ van at Westchester Golf Course in the heart of L.A., and talk footwork, overcoming fears, and golf in the afterlife.

Laz Tell me about your relationship with St. Louis. That was home, right?

LJ I don’t know where to start with St. Louis. When I see that arch, the air breathes differently. That is the most friendly skyline on the planet to me. All my family’s there. I have an uncle, Norman Seay, who was big in the civil rights movement. Another uncle, Cool Papa Bell, who’s a Negro League legend. 

Laz A legend.

LJ Hall-of-Famer. The street that my family lives off is named after him. My roots are planted deeply in that city. Our family was a basketball family. We all practiced together and we all were at the gym on Friday nights. My sister was playing, I was playing—we were a basketball family. But as a whole [in St. Louis], most people played baseball. We were different in that sense.

Laz Who did you try to model your game after? 

LJ I remember in high school once, a dude started talking about making it to the NBA. I’m like, “I just want to play college.” I didn’t even care about the NBA at all. College, to me, was the excitement of it. I would study players like Jay Williams when he played at Duke before the injury. I’m a nerd. I would look at his release, his footwork, how his feet worked when he stepped into jumpers. I studied the game on the most neurotic levels. 

Laz    There’s a little moment where Michael Jordan is breaking down film in a Bulls documentary, and he talks about his back foot being at an exactly 90-degree angle to his shoulder so that he can make a defensive move one way or another. Do you find any crossover in the athleticism and in the footwork that you see on the court that you feel on the golf course?

LJ There’s a ton. JJ Redick has talked about this before. If you notice, the best golfers in the NBA are always the best shooters. You approach golf and shooting the same way.

You’re almost like a masochist the way you have to approach your craft, where you torture yourself to get better. I have blisters on my hands from working on the golf course, and it was the same way with shooting when I was younger. That’s what I really focused on; details like the back of my hand. All the things you have to do to perfect your swing and your jumper— it’s a very similar approach. The similarities are shocking. When [Redick] brought that up, I was almost mad I didn’t come to that conclusion myself because it makes so much sense.

Laz When I think of shooters, I think of Steph Curry.

LJ Steph Curry is the best golfer in the league and he’s also the best shooter ever, and that is not a coincidence. Ray Allen is a great golfer and he’s one of the best pure shooters ever. Ray Allen had the exact same shooting process before every game his entire career. JR Smith, the list goes on. The best shooters we’ve seen in the league.

Laz    When I think of JR Smith, I’m thinking of some other shit. 3:00 AM in New York City. That’s the JR Smith I know. 

LJ Yes, we think of Hennessy, but also JR is a pure shooter. He’s a player. He’s a [golf] addict. 

Laz I remember our first range session together. I felt pressure because I talk a lot of shit and I’m like, “Look, I’m a huge fan of yours. I want to meet you and play golf and hit some golf balls, and I guarantee you’ll be better.” And I was ready for that. What I wasn’t ready for, was getting life lessons from someone over a bucket of balls.

This wasn’t that long ago, but I was at a point in my life where I was really starting to take inventory of, “What is it that I do and how do I reconcile that on a day-to-day basis?” And I remember you told me that the number one thing that drives you crazy, or that you’re afraid of later in life, is regret.

LJ My mom is a G. My mom tells me things like, “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, baby. If you make a mistake, you just correct it in the next decision. Don’t stay stagnant. Don’t allow fear to prevent you from making decisions.” 

Laz It paralyzes you.

LJ Yes. And I’m really thinking the only time I would have regret is not if I made a bad decision, but indecision. Fear. I talked to her two weeks ago, and she left me with a gem. She said, “Fear can ride, but that bitch got to sit in the back.”

Laz [Laughs.] Your mother is an accomplished woman. 

LJ My mom is retired. She was a chancellor at a big time D-1 school. She’s a CPA and all that, but she’s from St. Louis, the north side. [laughs] You feel me?

Laz   Yeah.

LJ Her telling me these types of things, that forms how I move. Like I said, the only thing that I worry about is being older and on my deathbed and saying, “I wish I would’ve done this.” If I did it and it didn’t work, I’m fine with that. I’m fine with taking an L. Losing is part of life. 

Golf will teach you that. [Laughs.] You know what I mean? You can’t take the whole nine holes with you. It’s not going to help you out at all.  Learning how to lose is part of life, but when you are scared and don’t make decisions, and you just sit and let life steer you instead of you taking the reins, I just can’t live like that. That’s where I would have regret.

Laz I remember you also saying something to me that I’ve thought about every single day since I met you. It was a conversation that you would have with your 8-year-old self. You were in St. Louis getting ready to move away…

LJ A huge decision.  I was hella scared. I cried like a baby leaving, because I had people I loved, but I think of the kid me. I think of the 8-year-old me when it comes to making decisions. Would that kid be proud? I have a picture of myself when I was younger. I look at this particular photo of me in a red cardigan-

Laz What are you Mr. fucking Rogers in here with a red cardigan?

LJ My mom dressed me! My mom had me fresh, though. But, yes, I was in a maroon cardigan. I look at that photo and think, “What would that kid be proud of today?”

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Laz How do you feel about making online content today? One of the things that your podcast co-host, Gardi B, was talking about was how Twitter specifically has become just like a hateful take house or just like slam-fest, but it’s not even clever anymore. It’s just being an asshole, right?

LJ If he was around in 2014, it was really asshole time then. I think the thing is he has more followers now; we all have more followers now. You’re going to get more people that aren’t in your circle that might say weird things. But I think people were actually worse back in the day. 

Also, I’m older now. Back then, I would argue until I was blue in the face about LeBron being the G.O.A.T. I don’t care what you think anymore. I literally don’t care. If you tell me Jordan is the G.O.A.T., I get it. If you say Kobe is the G.O.A.T., okay fine I just disagree with you, and that’s not a big deal. Also, I don’t have Twitter on my home screen anymore, I have to literally look it up. That made my experience so much better. I just get on it, say my shit, jump off and forget I said it, and go on about my day. Go hit some golf balls at Westchester. 

Laz   What basketball conversation frustrates you most?

LJ Probably Kevin Durant going to the Warriors. I’m like, “Yo, KD is maybe the best player in the league and we’re not appreciating him at his peak.” 

We missed out, because we’re so mad he made a personal decision for his life. I get not wanting him to go to the [Golden State] Warriors. I get that for competitive reasons. But dude, I get why he would want to leave OKC for the Bay, Silicon Valley. Money, and investment opportunities, and palm trees! This is their job.

People are asking me, “What’s your dream job?” Nothing! I don’t dream of labor! I don’t dream of working! My dream job is to do nothing. Even though these dudes all have a great job, it’s still work, and they probably work harder than most people have ever worked before to be the best in the world. 

Laz The best LaJethro Jenkins truthism ever is, “Anyone who tells you, ‘Work on something you’re passionate about, you’ll never work a day in your life,’ is a damn liar.”

LJ You’ll work harder than you ever worked before. The lines between life and work will bleed together.

Laz Tell me about where you got your clubs from?

LJ I got my irons from my grandmother when I was in seventh or eighth grade. Even when I lived in Atlanta, I’d go home to St. Louis every summer. [I’m a lefty, but] I learned how to hit righty because my grandmother was a righty. The most prominent things in her life were greens and golf—she smoked weed for 60 years and she played golf for like 40. 

Laz [Laughs.]

LJ She’ll smoke a little weed, drink a little Jack [Daniels] and then whoop your ass in chess or golf. She’s a brilliant woman and a great artist, too. She bought me the clubs when I graduated college. I didn’t touch them for like 12 years, maybe 13. Didn’t touch them. Maybe three or four times. I’d get high and go to the driving range a couple of times just because we were bored. That was the only time I ever really touched a club. I wouldn’t even try to hit it straight. Just trying to hit the ball.

Laz Did your grandmother ever try to get you to play golf with her?

LJ She did. I played with her a couple of times. When I started smoking green, I always wanted her to smoke with me but what I really should have done is played golf with my grandmother. But I’m going back to St. Louis soon and I’m really excited. She can’t play anymore but she said, “I’ll caddie.” She’s in her 80s or early 90s.  I’m low-key getting emotional thinking about it, but I can’t wait for that.

Laz Going back to the internet conversation, It drives me crazy because I’ll go on social media and I’ll see people talking like, “It’s time to make golf cool.” Newsflash: Golf has always been cool.

LJ Yes, the game is cool! But what surrounds it is not always cool. Like the coverage. I watch a lot of golf. I’ll even watch 10 minutes of Rory McIlroy slow-motion swings because I’m just obsessed. When I’m watching the Golf Channel, I’m like, “I don’t want to watch. This is boring.” Bro, show the golf. I’m here for the game. That’s what I think people are saying: What surrounds the game isn’t always cool, but it could be. The way it’s shown or shared with us is this very sterile, boring thing and the game is the exact opposite.

Laz The game is the opposite and what you see on television, at least from the PGA Tour—You have to understand the PGA Tour serves their customers.

LJ A particular base?

Laz No, they serve their customers. Their customer is their advertiser. As long as they get enough name drops and enough ad runs for their customer—which is FedEx or Wyndham or whoever it is—that’s who they care about because about half their base is tuning in to take a nap anyway. 

LJ Them naps be fire, though.

Laz What type of golf do you prefer to watch?

LJ The LPGA.

Laz Why?

LJ   When you look at people like Nelly Korda? First of all, her rotation—we ain’t finna imitate that. She’s just special. But how pure and smooth they swing and they hit it? They still hit a mile. They play some golf, to me. They can hit every single club.

Laz   Make no mistake, they are powerful as hell.

LJ   No doubt, but their swings are so pure and smooth and that’s what we can imitate. It’s like boxing to me. When I think of boxing, I think speed equals power. When you box a lot, if you’re all tight and you’re trying to muscle the bag, the punch is like, “poof.” It doesn’t pop. If you’re smooth, you’ll get a lot of power and speed and you hit much harder. I think that’s the exact same thing with golf. When I was trying to punch the ball, it wasn’t going anywhere.

Laz It feels like you’re a golfer for life. 

LJ [Laughs] If there’s a next life, I am a golfer in that life. I haven’t experienced anything like this game before.

Laz It’s incredible that you said, “If there’s a next life, I’m a golfer in that life,” because I remember listening to your podcast once and you saying something to the effect of, “I don’t want to go to heaven, heaven is boring as shit. There can be no golf in heaven.”

LJ   Because [heaven] is perfect, right?

Laz Thank you! There can be no golf in heaven because if it’s not for the misses, then you don’t enjoy driving the 18th green [at Westchester]. You don’t remember that. If you drive it every time you play, why are you showing up?

LJ Right. And I hope there’s no hell, but I want to go wherever there’s golf, you feel me?

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