Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Golfers paradise

The mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate

and very strong...

To subdue it is...more difficult

than controlling the wind.

Arjuna's observations to Bhagavan

Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 6, Section 34

Bagger Vance, a caddie who helps World War I hero Rannulph Junah find his “authentic” swing on a Savannah golf course in 1931, is one of a kind. More than a helper with a few words of great golf advice, Bagger Vance is a fictionalized version of Bhagavan, the supreme Hindu god. And Rannulph Junah isn’t just a golfer from Savannah, Georgia. He is a fictionalized version of Arjuna, the mortal whom Bhagavan assists in the Hindu scriptural epic, the Bhagavad-Gita.

The 1931 golf match at the Links at Krewe Island between the fictional Junah and two of golf’s greatest legends, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen, never happened, of course. But the backdrop of The Legend of Bagger Vance is very real. A sensational golf match would have provided folks with a much-needed diversion from the daily grind of Depression-wracked America.

It wasn’t long ago that the idea of golf instantly brought to mind the pot-bellied over-fifty crowd with plaid slacks and two-tone shoes. But even before Tiger Woods swept that image away in the real world, the aura of the game was changing in the movies. When Kevin Costner—playing a hard-drinking club pro who has squandered his talent for the game—gave Renee Russo her memorable hands-on golf lesson in Tin Cup, the idea of the golfer as macho male sex symbol had arrived.

Now, in this Robert Redford movie, Matt Damon steps up to the tee to take on Costner’s role of the prematurely over-the-hill golf genius.

If you give this movie a chance and let yourself be drawn into the tranquil and beguiling scenes of a young man struggling to find his courage and keep his balance in the green arena of the course, you’ll forget the deficiencies of plot and acting and all the rest. It has a lyrical sincerity. It catches the way in which golf takes you away from the preoccupations of daily life and transports you to a world where nature seems simultaneously friendly and indifferent to your plight. It’s a good-hearted movie about a game that never lets you forget that how you hit the ball and read the greens and cope with the hazards tells you something true about yourself.

For the millions who play the game, this movie is compulsory. For the millions more who have wondered why apparently sane people go slightly mad when they head for the fairways, it will help to explain what the madness is all about.

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