Yes, it’s a family-values, character-building, spiritual, wholesome kind of
offering. There’s certainly nothing remotely objectionable. But it just felt
like shallow schmaltz.
Lucas Black plays Luke Chisholm, a professional golfer who’s coming
apart at the seams. (Where have we heard this one before?) He’s been an
amateur champion, under the strong and watchful tutelage of his dad, but
when he turned pro the pressure started getting to both of them. They were
on the cusp of winning his first tournament, ahead one stroke with one hole
to play. Luke wanted to play it safe but his dad, now his caddy, strongly
advised “going for it” to try to put pressure on the other guy, a veteran tour
pro. It turned out very badly. After a heartbreaking sequence of bouncing
the ball off of trees, playing it out of the mud, duffing, blading, hacking,
and generally boiling into a disaster, Luke completely explodes, breaks his
putter over his knee, and his dad just walks off. Luke drives away in a fury,
and manages to wreck his car. Right in front of this sleepy little town called
There, he encounters an old local named Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall),
who arrives on horseback and directs him to the nearest café, and manages
to corral some local boys into helping get the car out of the ditch and over to
the garage. It’s going to take several days to fix the car. In the meantime,
Johnny offers to help Lucas with his golf game. It turns out he was
something of a sensation himself, in his youth, and still does a little teaching.
But his instruction methods are unconventional. You learn balance from
fly fishing standing up on a small boat. You learn accuracy from throwing
washers inside a hole, instead of hitting a golf ball with a putter. You learn
to envision shots by painting them, literally, with oil paints. And, of course,
you relax by riding horseback in the open fields, and it doesn’t hurt that a
certain fair young lass has her eyes on you.
But it’s all innocent, of course. Luke learns to relax, focus, and, well, use
The Force, from the patient instruction of Obi-Wan-Kenobe, er, Johnny
Crawford. He makes his peace with the local boy who’s jealous of him
because of the attention of the young lass, mainly because Luke wasn’t
interested in sticking around, anyway. Luke goes to church with all his new
friends, and leaves with an inner peace he didn’t know he was missing. He
returns home to reconcile with his dad, and now, re-energized, re-emerges
on the Tour and this time doesn’t lose his cool. A strange kind of happily
ever after. There are no wedding bells. No triumphant trophy-raising at the
end, either. Can you find out what happened by going to their Web site?
Whew. It’s not really proselytizing, but it all looks and feels like some kind
of Norman Rockwall painting, a version of old-fashioned Americana that
exists more in, well, a utopian point of view.
Ronald P. Salfen is interim pastor of St. Stephens Presbyterian Church in