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Tommy's Honour: The AmateurGolf.com Review
14 Feb 2017
by Pete Wlodkowski of AmateurGolf.com

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Most of the credit for the PGA Tour's large purses and media coverage goes to two people. Arnold Palmer, for bringing the televised game to the masses; and Tiger Woods, for taking that mass appeal to an entirely different level roughly 30 years later.

But to truly understand the origins of the professional game, you have to go back 100 years before Arnold Palmer's first professional victory, to the first "Open Championship" and the lives of Old and Young Tom Morris of Scotland. That's exactly what the new movie Tommy's Honour does.

The screenplay for Tommy's Honour was adapted from the 2007 novel by Kevin Cook, Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son. The movie was directed by Jason Connery, son of the famed Scottish actor Sir Sean Connery. The most well-known actor to American viewers will likely be Sam Neill, who played Dr. Alan Grant in the first and third Jurassic Park films. He's wonderful as the stuffy aristocratic club member, Alexander Boothby. But the rest of the cast is excellent as well.

I was given the book by a Scottish friend I met while on a trip to cover the 2011 Walker Cup. After visiting St. Andrews, (playing the Old Course), and touring The British Museum of Golf, he recommended that I stop at the cemetery to pay my respects to the Morris family. He told me the basic story, and the book (which won the USGA's Herbert Warren Wind Award in 2007) did the rest. If you have a chance to read it before seeing Tommy's Honour I highly recommend it -- especially if you're a golf history buff.

At the beginning of the movie, we watch Tommy come into his own as a better golfer than his father, while rebelling against the societal conventions that his father doesn't dare break from. Caddying, making clubs, greenskeeping, designing courses, and playing high stakes matches were very good to Old Tom, but Tommy wants more. And there is only one part of his father's profession he's interested in - playing for money. At one point, while laying out a famous course (Carnoustie), Old Tom is asked about his son's interest in course design and replies, "he's not interested in building courses, he's interested in conquering them." And conquer he does, becoming the most popular golfer during the first "golf boom."

Golf movies often get critiqued harshly on several points, the main one being the, um, "amateur" golf swings of the actors who are supposed to be portraying skilled golfers. I'm not sure which is better -- a pro actor with a bad golf swing, or a great golfer with bad acting skills. Either way, only a few movies have gotten it right. For Tommy's Honour, the actors weren't golfers, but took to the game quickly, especially Jack Lowden, who plays Young Tom. And since the old golf swing was so different from today's modern move, perhaps starting from scratch wasn't such a disadvantage. Lowden (as Young Tom) looks good lifting up the left heel for that big swooping backswing, but may need to make some changes if he's going to take up the game seriously.

The matches pitting Old and Young Tom against antagonists like the Park brothers are contested on courses where the "hazards" include playing across a horse track, in weather that ranges from a gorgeous Scottish day to a nasty snowstorm. It's the banter between characters, the unruly galleries (You're player's not winning? Just kick the opponent's ball into a bunker) and gorgeous scenery that are so riveting. But Tommy's Honour is much more than a golf movie. It tells the tragic story of the Morris family, spending sufficient time developing the characters so that we can deeply feel their triumphs and heartaches. It's well acted, well shot, and true to the period and topic. I highly recommend it.

Directed by Jason Connery, the film stars Peter Mullan (War Horse), Jack Lowden (’71), Ophelia Lovibond (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Sam Neill (Jurassic Park).

TOMMY'S HONOUR

RELEASE DATE   April 14, 2017
DIRECTOR   Jason Connery
CAST   Old Tom: Peter Mullan (War Horse)
    Young Tom: Jack Lowden ('71)
    Meg Drinnen: Ophelia Lovibond (Guardians of the Galaxy)
    Alexander Boothby: Sam Neill (Jurassic Park)
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