Making the Grades
Growing up next door to a golf course, wee Bobby Jones (Devon Gearhart) has ample opportunity to observe the game from an early age. A sickly child from birth, his parents happily allow him to tag along when his father plays, hoping the fresh air and mild exercise may help him get better. However, his enthusiasm for the sport soon makes it clear the little lad is not content to remain a spectator. Humoring him with a set of miniature clubs, the youngster is encouraged to take a swing.
By the age of fourteen Bobby (Thomas 'Bubba' Lewis) plays well enough to enter the Georgia State Amateur Golf Competition, where he contends against grown men. He also attracts the attention of the national media and sport's journalist O.B. Keeler (Malcom McDowell). Predicted as the next big winner in the golfing world, this pressure to perform proves to be a handicap for the nervous player.
Over the next few years, failure to reach their lofty expectations results in increasingly angry outbursts where Bobby (now played by Jim Caviezel) flings golf clubs and foul language across the green--a continuation of a bad habit excused as "cute" when he was a child. Adding to his frustrations is his finicky health and the conflicting opinions of those closest to him about what he should do with his life.
His father (Brett Rice) wants him to pursue a career in golf, his grandfather (Dan Albright) feels the game is an idle waste of time, his mother (Connie Ray) would prefer him to get an education, and his wife (Claire Forlani) wishes he'd just stay home. Torn between his love of the sport and his desire to please his family, Bobby finds himself stretching the limits of his emotional and physical abilities, turning to medicinal alcohol to steady his nerves.
Deciding what is the most important for him to accomplish will require a change in his game plan, some real sacrifice, as well as self-control over his unruly temper and his body's limitations. Amazingly, Bobby rises to the challenge. With wisdom rivaling Solomon's, he comes up with an answer to satisfy all these demands and the self-confidence to do what no other player has done before or after... win the Grand Slam of golf (meaning taking the cups at the four most prominent tournaments of his time-- the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur, British Open, and British Amateur-in the same year).
Portraying one of the hottest tempers to ever play the cool-headed sport, parents may find the inclusion of many moderate profanities to be a deterrent for sharing this movie with their children. Other concerns include role models using alcohol and cigarettes, a derogatory remark about a girl's clean reputation and the film's quiet pace. Moving along much like a game of golf, young audiences could have trouble staying with the plot for all eighteen holes.
For fans of this sport, Bobby Jones: A Stroke of Genius and the DVD "extras" will provide a gentle insight into the life and talent of this legendary player. Those who don't know a wedge from a putter will appreciate the movie's fine performances and inspiring story. Here is a man who conquered personal shortcomings and unexpected challenges to achieve his own dreams, while still valuing and respecting the hopes and desires of others.