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'The Long Game' and Other Top Golf Dramas

| April 12, 2024 | By

The Easter season almost always coincides with one of the best golfing events, The Masters. Defending champion John Rahm will take on the world’s best in golf’s first major championship of the season.

Rahm mentioned last year how special it was to win on Easter Sunday. (Rahm is Basque, from an overwhelmingly Catholic region in northern Spain.)

I grew up in a subdivision that was one of the first to incorporate a golf course into the neighborhood in a northern state. And, my father was an avid golfer. Below, I reflect on my favorite golf movies and their spiritual takeaways.

But first, there's a new golf movie that's just landed in theaters:

The Long Game (2024)

This new film, based Humberto G. Garcia's 2010 novel Mustang Miracle, seeks to tell a family-friendly, uplifting tale about young men inspired to go against the odds and take up a sport thought beyond them. Did it succeed?

From the website:

This is a beautiful, inspirational true story about five young Mexican-American caddies in 1957 who, disallowed from playing on the courses where they caddied, decided to build their own golf course in the South Texas desert and ultimately won the State Championship with the help of their superintendent-turned-coach.


A movie about a high school golf team made up of Mexican-American teenagers in the 1950s creates expectations in the viewer. There will be sunlit greens (writer/director Julio Quintana has worked with Terrence Malick), condescension and blatant bigotry, setbacks, supportive wives and girlfriends, comfortably nostalgic '50s music, doubting family members, inspiring pep talks, and a satisfying victory. “The Long Game” has all of that, appealingly told with sincerity and taste. notes this spiritual element:

We see a cross hanging on the wall of J.B.’s home. J.B.’s wife, Lucy, reveals that she’s prayed for a long time that she and J.B. would conceive.

For parents: the film contains some racial slurs and crude language (in English and Spanish).


And now, my favorites ...

The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005), based on the book by Mark Frost

One of the coolest things about golf is that amateurs can qualify for tournaments, including the major ones. Amateur French Catholic Francis Ouimet (Catholic newbie Shia LaBeouf) defeated British professional and Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) in the 1913 U.S. Open.

The greatest part of The Greatest Game Ever Played was the depiction of the friendship between Ouimet and his caddy Eddie Lowery (Josh Flitter). Golf, by nature, remains a solitary pursuit, except for the person who carries your bags, who often serves as an equal in strategizing with the golfer around the course.

Bonus: An early scene references discrimination against Catholics, even cultural ones. The president of a prestigious golf course promises to work around Harry Vardon’s Catholic affiliation (his mother was French Catholic) in admitting someone from the “Church of Rome” into the club.


Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius (2004)

Catholic Jim Caviezel plays amateur Bobby Jones, who worked professionally as a lawyer and eventually became a golf-course designer and founder of the Masters tournament at Augusta National.

The film culminates in 1930, when Jones wins all four majors in the calendar year, the only man (amateur or pro) to accomplish that feat in the same year. Caviezel seems to keep channeling the mystery of suffering, a holdover from his performance earlier that year in The Passion of the Christ.

In one scene, which foreshadows Jones’ later diagnosis of syringomyelia, his Catholic wife (Claire Forlani) prays the Rosary at his bedside.


The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000), based on the historical fiction novel by Steven Pressfield

In a film set in 1931 Georgia, Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) takes on Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch), the greatest amateur of the time, and Walter Hagen (Bruce McGill), the greatest pro, in a match that goes on well into the night.

In a moment of magic realism (which some viewers have considered to be an example of stereotyping), Junuh is aided by a strange caddie called Bagger Vance (Will Smith).

Hard to photograph dramatically, most golf films settle around the human drama to drive the plot forward. Bagger was an exception. I remember my dad and I marveling at the “ball’s eye view” camera movement that anticipated the graphics now used in live golfing coverage.


Image: The Long Game/Mucho Mas Media

Click here to visit Father Vince Kuna’s IMDB page.

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