The Short Game (2013)
“A flag-stick-bang hole-in-one.”
GRADE: A (5/5 Stars)
by Richard Rey
The kids won’t back down and neither will director Josh Greenbaum in this look into the lives of some of the world’s greatest (and youngest) golfers. We follow eight of the 1,000+ players who compete at the 2012 U.S. Kids Golf World Championship, the most prestigious and widely recognized golf tournament for children eight and under, held annually in Pinehurst, NC. As the culture, education and personality of each contestant widely vary – the boys and girls are from South Africa, France, China, the Philippines and the U.S. respectively – not only are we inclined to cheer them on, but we have the rare privilege of acting as caddy-spectators as we learn about their family and lifestyles mostly on, but at times off the green. Indeed, it is an unexpectedly energetic golf movie that will spark new interest in the sport and which stands unflinchingly honest in its portrayal of the struggles of its players be they pint-sized or of full stature: work ethic, sacrifice, competition, confidence, patience and passion rule a world that makes Pop Warner and Little League seem like, well, like child’s play I suppose.
While the parents caddy, complain and push, these incredibly talented and intensely driven youngsters offer the fun, sophistication and attitude that all youth should assume in the world today. Even when facing adversity, their parents cringing at a missed birdie, or cursing a sandy bunker, these trophy-winning kids never seem to lose sight of the truth that they should “play hard but most importantly have fun.”
As for missing out on fun because of their obsession with the game, Allan Kournikova – younger brother of professional tennis player Anna Kournikova – puts it best, “I don’t feel like I’m giving up my childhood. Golf is my childhood.”
While the socioeconomic background of only one of the player’s is explicitly mentioned – that of world champion Amari “Tigress” Avery of Riverside, CA who stems from a middle-class family – one thing rings true throughout the entire affair: these kids love what they do, be they rich or poor. And because they love it, you’ll love it. Even in the midst of the surprisingly suspenseful climax, I found myself falling more in love with the sport they call golf than I ever have before. Each child is worth rooting for in their own way: be good, be kind, don’t ever get happy when someone played poorly. Sure, it’s idealistic, but these are the golden rules that will lead to a solidified future for generations to come and it’s a pleasant reminder of how we should probably be treating our each other.
Two thumbs up, way up to The Short Game and its energetic sensibility and sophistication in touching a niche of a niche subject matter that, in other, less skillful hands, would have wound up being a dull double-bogey about the lives of some kids who do something we could care less about. A flag-stick-bang hole in one.
MPAA: Rated PG for some language
Runtime: 90 min
Genre: Sports, Documentary
Director: Josh Greenbaum
Starring: Allan Kournikova, Zama “The Dreamer” Nxasana, Kuang Yang, Alexa Pano, Jedy “The Jedi” Dy, Augustin Valery, Sky Sudberry, Amari “Tigress” Avery, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Juan “Chi Chi” Rodriguez, Annika Sorenstam
Theatrical Release Date: September 20, 2013
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films, Phase 4 Films