I want Bagger Vance as my caddy

Every once in a while a good book comes along, and the movie made from it is even better. In this case I’m talking about Stephen Pressfield’s Legend of Bagger Vance, which was on TV this afternoon. I’ve seen it before, but it’s one of those movies that when you start watching it, you can’t let go until the conclusion. It’s among the finest performances of both Matt Damon and Will Smith. In the movie Matt Damon’s character, last name Junuh, plays Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen in a golf tournament in Savannah, Georgia, set up to save his former girl friend’s country club from rapacious bankers. Junuh had been a golf prodigy who went into WWI and became a drunk after suffering shell shock. The match is his return to golf, and he plays terribly and falls way behind until he decides to listen to the advice of his caddy, Will Smith’s Bagger Vance. If you try Vance’s advice yourself, you’re still going to stink, because it’s a bunch of hokus pokus like “You have to see the field,” and “let the one perfect swing find you,” but no matter. Junuh magically regains his form, and of course he ends up winning the day. Before his final putt, a self-satisfied Bagger Vance walks off into the sunset. Then at the end Jack Lemmon, who during the match was a ten-year-old boy who caddied for Junuh, does too — forever as it would turn out. When you talk about the great sports movies, I put Bagger Vance right up there. It’s a perfect movie. Not a false note, except perhaps the part about seeing the field. A really great movie.

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