My Caddy’s My Daddy (Documentary Review: “The Short Game”)

I tried to hit a golf ball once. That’s when I knew God had a sense of humor. The Short Game is a delightful 2013 Netflix documentary about the annual Junior Golf World Championship Tournament held at the prestigious Pinehurst Golf Course in North Carolina, the Mecca for all who worship at the mercy of a little white ball.

SnapShot Plot

All around the world, every day, rain or shine from dawn to dusk, the best golfers in the world are practicing their drives, puts, and strokes with a relentless devotion and discipline that would put most of us to shame: and they’re not even 8 yrs old. Each August, the best 1,500 junior golfers in the world – representing 60 countries – arrive with their families for a 3-day tournament that will crown one of them the best on the planet within their age division. In the documentary, filmmaker Josh Greenbaum takes us back several months before Pinehurst to meet eight boys and girls who are already champions, well known to each other and the circuit, as they train in preparation for the August showdown. So we get to know these little phenoms on their home turf in places as American as Texas and Florida, as well as South Africa, Malaysia, China, and Paris. In fact, the face of one effervescent and ambitious little guy may remind you of another champion from a different sport entirely. . . he’s her baby brother. And then there’s the petite little blond girl from Texas who makes up in dedication what she lacks in physical size or strength. Oh, and the adorable boy from South Africa whose infectious laugh and big heart will charm your sneakers off, especially when he talks about wanting to play well for his country. And then there’s the little Renaissance Man from Paris, who’s actually the great-grandson of a famous poet who is studied in classrooms in France; he is très amusant. Or the young girl being raised by her single Dad who’s also her caddy. In fact, most of these fathers – and one single Mom – are the caddies and/or coaches for their little golfers. I think that’s what separates The Short Game from most other documentaries about kids’ competitions: it’s a parent/child team made up of hard work, discipline, and lots of love and affection. Speaking of which, you won’t escape without some tears as the stress of the tournament takes its toll on a few players (and their parents). One situation in particular, having to do with an enormously gifted and passionate player to whom Golf represents a way out of a challenging neurological diagnosis, was actually heartbreaking.



Parting Shot

The subjects of The Short Game share an all-consuming passion for the game of Golf and all that it represents. They are, to a one, most happy, most themselves, on a green. And because of the fact that the training to compete at this level, on a world stage, has removed them from many of the typical childhood activities which their schoolmates are enjoying, it has made them more mature and confident and, well, tougher than you’d ever expect to see in children this age. But what I loved about this film is the fact that they’re still kids, still goofy, very funny and fun-loving, still innocent in the ways that are most important. Whenever I see these kinds of documentaries, I always wonder about the root of the passion. Was it the sport/dance/music itself that demanded it and dredged it from the recesses of these kids’ brains or would these special youngsters be like this wherever they were pointed by their parents or teachers? It always seems such a miracle of pairing, when the right kid meets the right dream. It makes chasing a little white ball much easier to understand.

The Short Game is presently streaming on Netflix.


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