Sony Pictures Classic’s new “The Phantom of the Open” is a movie with a golf theme and heartwarming messages wrapped into one. Those who have luckily sneak-previewed “Phantom” posit it will outshine silver-screen classics Tin Cup, Happy Gilmore and even Caddyshack.
Flash back 30 years ago when, hook or crook, dad would maintain his regular Saturday and / or Sunday morning tee time. He’d saunter home early to mid-afternoon to spend time with loved ones.
Well, folks, that’s largely yesterday’s news.
Golf has unwaveringly become a family affair. Mom and kids now join him to knock a little white ball in a little white hole.
So goes the evolution of a sport once played somewhat exclusively by men. Today, female participation is nearing 30% of the total golfer population. Thanks in large part to off-course venues like Topgolf, it’s growing with ferocity like archetypical U.S. Open roughs.
Golf courses, country clubs and resorts are also catering to her. She’s often the decision-maker. Sayonara, many a weekend tee time for him.
Aligned with this here-to-stay trend is Sony Pictures Classic, distributor of the new “The Phantom of the Open” movie with a golf theme and heartwarming messages wrapped into one. Those who have luckily sneak-previewed “Phantom” posit it will outshine silver-screen classics Tin Cup, Happy Gilmore and even Caddyshack.
The differentiators here: “Phantom” is largely void of slapstick comedy and, most important, based on a true story. You don’t have to be a dad or mom golfer to love it. For its relatability, the movie scores equally high with non-golfer audiences who savor sports-theme and feel-good films whether the setting is in a bedroom community, among city skylights, a football field or links in the U.K.
With an early June release date in theaters – yes, theaters – nationwide, “Phantom” will be the summer sleeper movie of 2022. You heard it here first.
Now for the story: Oscars winner Mark Rylance marvelously plays Maurice Flitcroft, 46-year-old shipyard worker in Burrows-in-Furness, England. Down on luck, the course of his life changes upon declaration to friends, “I’m going to play in the British Open.” This came after watching, on a fuzzy color TV, a Tom Watson tap-in putt to win the 1975 edition.
It’s the dream of all dreams considering Flitcroft never picked up a golf club and has no business whatsoever entering even the most local of local putt-putt competitions. But, as our soon-to-be hero proclaims, “Practice is the road to perfection.” Beating balls on the range and on beaches makes Maurice passable as a golfer. Let’s use “passable” lightly.
An innocent error and part laziness by the Royal and Ancient led to Flitcroft’s entry to a qualifying tournament for the Open Championship. Our star proceeds to shoot 121 and his dubbing as the “world’s worst golfer” became famous not only in the U.K, but across the pond. He then competed in other qualifiers, hilariously under disguises, to show his “improvement” and mostly fluster the snobbish R&A.
Being a bad golfer is only as bad as you let it get to you, and Flitcroft took it in stride. It’s this type of fun attitude that today’s golfer covets just as much if not more than a rapidly diminishing handicap. We live in an experience economy.
Club and resort leaders, take heed: “Phantom” validates the necessity of promoting an inclusionary environment in golf today and for generations to come. It’s what our career, industry and sustainability of the game hinges on. Recommend this movie to your members and guests. “Phantom” hardly disappoints.