Making the Grades
Golf has gone through a myriad of changes in its long history. Once an exclusive game for the rich and titled, it's now also a favorite weekend pastime for everyday sports fanatics. Still, breaking down the privileged barriers took time. One of the early athletes who sparked the revolutionary changes on the American continent is Francis Ouimet.
To supplement the family's meager income, Francis (Shia LaBeouf) works at the Brookline, Massachusetts's golf course as a caddy. As a result of his job, he knows the course. Every once in a while he even manages to sneak in a lone game when the regular club members aren't around. But his immigrant parentage and lack of wealth is enough to keep the talented athlete from being allowed on the links with the certified members.
His skill with an iron becomes well known among the locals, some of who do their best to mentor the budding player. Nevertheless, despite their support and his mother's (Marnie Mc Phail) quiet encouragement, Francis' father (Elian Koteas) worries the boy is wasting his time pursuing a hobby instead of learning a trade.
Then in 1913, an affluent Englishman sponsors a trip for Britain's top golf champions. Traversing the Atlantic, Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) and Ted Ray (Stephen Marcus), plan to take on the Americans in the 18th U.S. Open and wrest away their coveted cup. By a fortunate fluke, Francis gets an invitation to play as an amateur in the tournament along side Vardon, his childhood hero.
On the morning of the first round, Francis's caddy fails to show up after the school's truant officer catches him and sends him off to class. However, the caddy's 10-year-old brother Eddy (Josh Flitter) comes ready to fill in. Hardly taller than the clubs, Eddy appears to be more of a detriment than advantage to the nervous golfer. Yet Eddy's laid-back personality becomes a lucky stroke when the amateur putter finds himself within striking range of the top professionals.
Set in the 1900's, the film's characters rely heavily on cigars and liquor to deal with the pressures of the game. They also live within a social system that measures a man by his money and heredity rather than his own abilities. Fighting those class distinctions proves challenging for more than just Francis' immigrant family.
Living up to a superlative title like The Greatest Game Ever Played may seem a difficult shot. Fortunately, the photography, actors and story all work to give at least some credibility to the label. For many family viewers, the feel good script and scarcity of content concerns will make this putting match one of the year's greatest family films.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Greatest Game Ever Played.
Who mentors young Francis when he takes up the game of golf? What role can a mentor play in the life of a young person? Is it important for athletes, artists and others to have role models to follow?
Why does Francis’ father discourage his son’s dream? As an immigrant to America, what role does the father feel locked into?
Some sports are more exclusive than others. Does golf still fit into this category? What barriers do these characters have to overcome?