Are golf movies better when they’re made by golfers? That’s the question raised by new golf movie “The Squeeze,” which tells the story of a golf prodigy (Jeremy Sumpter), who becomes the pawn of two high-stakes gamblers.
The movie was written, directed and produced by Terry Jastrow, who produced 62 major championships (the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship) during his time at ABC Sports.
The Squeeze will be released in select theaters on April 17, and is available for digital download and video on demand the same day. Groupon users can download the movie a day earlier (more on that later).
Here are six things to know about the movie.
The golf shots were real
Jastrow’s first order of business was to find a leading man who could actually hit the high-level golf shots his role required. Jastrow received more than 1,000 applications for the role, but once he saw Sumpter’s golf game, he knew the role was his.
[quote_box_center]”At the tryout at Belair Country Club, Jeremy hit his first drive over 300 yards,” Jastrow said. [/quote_box_center]
Jastrow sent videos of Sumpter hitting a driver, a 5 iron, a wedge and a bunker shot to friend Tom Watson, one of the movie’s backers, for review. The eight-time major champion approved.
At the movie’s world premier in Chicago, Jastrow confirmed that every shot in the film, sans one, was authentic. The shot in question? It would have been real, had the camera been pointed at the ball, not his face, Sumpter said.
Jastrow changed golf broadcasts forever
Jastrow’s charmed career in golf, like a lot of people his age, started as a caddie. Then it broke severely from the norm. As the junior champion at his club, he had the chance to caddie for Arnold Palmer when Arnie came to town for an event. Jastrow later got a job at Austin Country Club, where he played rounds with Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, and improved his game under the tutelage of legendary instructor Harvey Penick.
[quote_box_center]”In Harvey’s second book, the Green Book, there’s a whole chapter about me,” Jastrow said. [/quote_box_center]
Jastrow played collegiate golf at the University of Houston, but didn’t want to be a professional golfer. He got a job at ABC Sports at age 21, and was made a producer at 22. Why so young? At the time “no one there played golf,” he said.
His familiarity with high-level golf, and desire to have viewers feel like they were a part of the action, led to two innovations that changed golf broadcasts forever. He led the first broadcast to put a camera behind a golfer in the fairway, and is the originator of the coverage style that follows a group for all 18 holes in a tournament. Jastrow has won 7 Emmy Awards, and has also produced or directed The Super Bowl, The Indy 500, The Kentucky Derby and eight Olympics.
Those who see The Squeeze will enjoy the major championship-like feel of the golf action in the movie.
The Squeeze was based on (many) true stories
The plot of the movie was based on the real-life experiences of Keith Flatt, a Texas-born golfer who was discovered by a gambler after winning a local tournament by 15 shots. The Squeeze’s action covers the last few weeks of Flatt’s time playing high-stakes golf, which saw his life put in jeopardy by gamblers in Las Vegas.
There are several other true stories mixed in the movie, including the opening scene that shows Sumpter and co-star Jillian Murphy playing a game of cross-country golf. As a child, Jastrow played the same game with his brother before church on Sundays. Their “course” covered the span 1.5 miles in Midland, Texas, and ended when one of them holed out at their municipal golf course.
A later scene shows Murray using a clever trick to light the line of Sumpter’s putt, which was inspired by a father-son tournament Jastrow played as a teenager. As daylight waned, spectators brought their cars on the course to illuminate the action. It helped the golfers get to the green, but more light was needed for the winning putt to go in.
[quote_box_center]”We didn’t know much about USGA rules in West Texas, so we didn’t know we couldn’t put a cigarette on the ground to help us line up a putt,” Jastrow said. [/quote_box_center]
If Sumpter wasn’t an actor, he might be playing golf for a living
Sumpter missed a putt during a round of golf with Jastrow, and proceeded to scoop the ball up with the back of his putter, toss it above his head and whack it 120 yards. Jastrow put it in the movie, and it’s a safe bet that you’ll see someone trying to emulate the trick shot on the range this summer.
Sumpter, 26, began honing his golf game in Australia during the filming of live-action movie Peter Pan (2003), in which he starred. He’s played a lot of golf since that time, and currently boasts a +1.2 handicap at Moorpark Country Club in Southern California.
When Sumpter isn’t working, he likes to play golf during the daylight hours and shoot pool at night. He told me that he’d really like to play in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am next year. Then the conversation shifted to what it would take for him to compete on the mini tours. He was serious.
You don’t need to like golf to like the movie
It’s OK to watch The Squeeze with your significant other and/or non-golfing friends. Jessie (Katherine LaNasa) brings laughs as the girlfriend of Riverboat (Christopher McDonald), a character based on legendary gambler Titanic Thompson — and a far cry from his role as Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore.
Natalie (Jillian Murray) is a likable character who plays the girlfriend of Augie (Jeremy Sumpter). Some will say she’s reason enough to see the movie. Michael Nouri, who plays Jimmy Diamonds, told me he’s not a gambler, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the film.
The Squeeze offers something extra through Groupon
Groupon will offer The Squeeze at its first digital download on April 16, a day before it hits theaters. It’s available in two separate packages:
- With Tom Watson’s “Lessons of a Lifetime” DVD set.
- With $10 off a tee time booked at TeeOff.com.
[quote_box_center]”We’re very excited about partnering with Groupon,” Jastrow said. “The movie business is forever looking for robust new distribution outlets … If this Groupon campaign with The Squeeze works, it could create another huge marketplace for movies.”[/quote_box_center]
The 19th Hole (Ep 63): Valentino Dixon talks Golf Channel documentary; Marvin Bush remembers his father
Valentino Dixon shares his amazing story in an exclusive interview with Michael Williams. Also in this episode: a tribute to George H.W. Bush, featuring a conversation with his youngest son, Marvin.
Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
featured image c/o Golf Channel
Hidden Gem of the Day: Park Hills Golf Course in Freeport, Illinois
These aren’t the traditional “top-100” golf courses in America, or the ultra-private golf clubs you can’t get onto. These are the hidden gems; they’re accessible to the public, they cost less than $50, but they’re unique, beautiful and fun to play in their own right. We recently asked our GolfWRX Members to help us find these “hidden gems.” We’re treating this as a bucket list of golf courses to play across the country, and the world. If you have a personal favorite hidden gem, submit it here!
Today’s Hidden Gem of the Day was submitted by GolfWRX member lawsonman, who takes us to Park Hills Golf Course in Freeport, Illinois. The course sits west of Chicago, and in lawsonman’s description of the course, he cites the immaculate condition of the track as one of the reasons he feels it’s a hidden gem.
“Always in pristine condition. 36 hole layout that is as hard as you want to make it. Trees (big) and water are everywhere. Pace of play is usually very good. Located about 90 minutes west of Chicago’s western suburbs.”
According to Park Hills Golf Course’s website, 18 holes around the course costs just $23, no matter what day you wish to play. There is a $16 charge should you want to use a cart for 18 holes.
Louisville Golf: Post time for persimmon
“I knew I had to give it a shot. If I had tried and it didn’t work out, I would’ve been okay with that. But I had to go after my passion and see where it went.”
Jeremy Wright gets it. Taking over at Louisville Golf is not for everybody. This isn’t a multi-billion-dollar revenue generating machine with private research facilities and elaborate corporate complexes. It’s not about money…or fame…or 385-yard drives. Gerard Just, the youngest of the Just brothers who started Louisville Golf might have summed it up best:
“You know, I guess you could say we’re simple people. We don’t really go on vacations. But we work hard and we enjoy what we do. We don’t make a lot of money. I don’t think my kids could afford to work here to be honest, but they hate their jobs. We never really had that problem.”
Louisville Golf was established in 1974 by Elmore Just and Steve Taylor when they left Hillerich & Bradsby (crafters of Louisville Slugger baseball bats and Power-Bilt golf clubs). Elmore ran the business side of the company and Steve oversaw the manufacturing aspect. Back then, in the heyday of persimmon, the club manufacturers were on an allotment. Since persimmon (remarkably well-suited for golf clubs due to its strength and density) is a relatively slow-growing wood, there was only so much material to go around and upstart Louisville Golf had to fight for every block they got. Eventually, they built the business into a major player, making 800 clubs a day for the likes of Hogan, MacGregor, Wilson, Spalding, and others.
Some of Louisville Golf’s more well-known woods that won on the PGA Tour were the Wilson Whale that Payne Stewart used to win the 1989 PGA Championship and the Hogan Apex that Tom Kite used to win the 1992 US Open at Pebble Beach. Then metal woods came into the picture and sales dwindled. When Callaway launched the Big Bertha, sales basically dried up overnight.
Though metal woods took off like a rocket in the 1990’s, there were some holdouts. Justin Leonard, Davis Love III, and Mark Calcavecchia held onto their persimmon woods into the late 90s. The last man standing was widely considered to be Bob Estes, who used his Louisville Golf Smart ProBE (a club Just developed specifically for Estes) in the Accenture Match Play in 2001.
When Elmore Just passed away in April of 2001, his brother Mike assumed control of the company. Elmore is actually buried at Persimmon Ridge Golf Club in Louisville, an Arthur Hills course he developed in the 1980’s. When Mike took the reins, though the company had successfully limped along through the metal wood revolution, the hard reality was that they needed to reinvent themselves if they were going to remain profitable. Mike left his mark on the company in 2004 by deciding to leverage Louisville Golf’s unique expertise into crafting period-correct hickory shafted golf clubs and restoring vintage specimens. That decision marked a resurgence of sorts, as the niche has served Louisville Golf well. Today, Louisville Golf and St. Andrews Golf Co. are the only large scale manufacturers of such equipment.
It’s a peculiar set of circumstances to be sure, but oddly enough, many golfers in the 21st century have found Louisville Golf through 100-year-old golf clubs. This is exactly how Jeremy Wright came into the picture. Jeremy was a medical sales representative in Houston, TX with a wife, three kids, and a serious golfing hobby. He had recently gone on a search for an exotic shaft upgrade for his Scotty Cameron putter. On a whim, he googled wooden shafts, stumbled across hickory golf clubs, and the rest was history.
“One of the things I learned in that search was that, when the golf industry transitioned from hickory shafts to steel, a lot of players either kept their old hickory putters or would fit their new putters with hickory shafts for decades after that transition because the feel was so much better.
“So I kept digging into hickory golf and tried to learn what it was all about. I discovered there were hickory tournaments and the winners shot like 75-78 and I thought, ‘I can do that. I’m going to get a hickory set together and figure this out.’ From that point on, I was hooked. There was no going back.”
So hooked, in fact, that when Jeremy heard the Just family was fielding offers for the company as a result of Mike’s passing in October of 2016, he put his name in the hat. It just so happened that Jeremy and his wife were both at a point in their careers where they were looking for more. Burned out and tired of the cyclical corporate rat race, they decided to go all-in on Jeremy’s passion, submitted an offer to the Just family, and ultimately were selected from multiple potential suitors to carry on the legacy of the company.
As for where Louisville Golf goes from here, you can probably expect a lot more of what got them here in the first place. After all, one of the biggest reasons Jeremy was selected to take the reins at Louisville Golf was his commitment to preserving its heritage. Louisville Golf may not be rubbing elbows with the major OEM’s anymore, but these days, they’re not trying to either. Just like the rest of us golfers, they’re getting by with grit, optimism, and respect for the game. They’ve also seen the fortunate bounces and bad lies that come with a life dedicated to golf, but as the old adage says, the most important shot is always the next one. Time marches on. And so does Louisville Golf. They remain committed to what has brought them this far and see that as a springboard into the future.
“We’ve got some products in the works that I think are really innovative and will show what persimmon is really capable of. I think if you’re a better player who can find the sweet spot on a consistent basis, you really should think seriously about persimmon. Especially if you’re looking to get a specific yardage out of your clubs like with a fairway wood or hybrid. There was a video circulating a few years ago with Rickie Fowler using a steel shafted persimmon fairway wood and he was getting a 1.49 smash factor. You can’t get much better than that. The way the bulge and roll is shaped on a persimmon wood and also the location of the CG allows for a bigger gear effect than modern titanium woods. Persimmons do impart more spin on the ball (especially on a mishit), so we acknowledge the ball may not go as far, but that spin also brings the ball back to the target, too. That’s one of the biggest advantages of persimmon. You’ll be shorter but in the fairway as opposed to long and in the trees.
“The people that find us are looking for a deeper connection to the tradition and the spirit of the game. They’re tired of paying for marketing fluff and silly catch phrases. We make viable alternatives for the modern golfer, we make classic reproductions of the steel shaft/persimmon head era of golf, and we make spot-on hickory shafted clubs as well, so we think we have a place in just about everyone’s bag depending on how you prefer to experience the game. Nothing compares to the joy of a purely struck golf shot with a wooden golf club. You just feel like you’re playing golf the way it was meant to be played.”
A visit to Louisville Golf reveals a group of people who have dedicated their lives to exactly that: playing the game the way it was meant to be played. Hard work, attention to detail, a commitment to quality, and having a lot of fun along the way are the hallmarks of their operation. One strike directly on that persimmon sweet spot will send all of those vibes straight into your bones. Playing golf with persimmon woods in the 21st century may be taking the road less traveled, but it could make all the difference.
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