Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk – Movie Review
Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk
Teacher’s Comments: I loved it, but don’t know how much appeal it will have beyond golf enthusiasts.
Loopers: The Caddies’ Long Walk is a terrific new documentary movie about the central role of caddies in the game of golf. If you’re a golf fan, you should make an effort to see this film.
Narrated by Bill Murray, Loopers is directed by Jason Baffa. Baffa is no stranger to sport documentaries, having directed several well-received surf films. Murray is of course, of Caddyshack fame and is a former caddie. In fact, the five Murray brothers are in the Caddie Hall of Fame.
Thanks to prominent player-caddie pairs such as Tiger – Stevie and Phil – Bones, even casual golf watchers know that the professional relationship often goes far beyond the caddie tradition of “show up, keep up and shut up.” What they may not know — unless playing at an old school country club — is of the similarly complex relationship between amateurs and their caddies.
Loopers explores those relationships and more. It features interviews with the caddies of Tour players, as well as those who caddie professionally for amateurs. Among the “cast” are: Bill Murray, Michael Allen, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, sportswriter Rick Reiley, Curtis Strange, Fuzzy Zoeller, Carl Jackson, Pete Bender (pro caddie), Michael Greller, Steve Williams and Fanny Sunneson among others.
I found the interviews engaging. Rather than the usual documentary “talking heads,” they are for the most part shot in a more casual style. The subjects are interviewed on porches, under trees, on benches outside a pub, at driving ranges or alongside a fairway. Some were conducted while following caddies around on the course. There’s some neat camera work in that.
Loopers also has quite a bit of historical footage of competitions, casual play and peripheral events. The documentary has some still photos as well, but nowhere near the extent of a Ken Burns program.
As a celebration of golf and caddies, Loopers is gorgeously filmed, with scenery from Ballybunion, Lahinich, Carnoustie, the Old Course, Pebble Beach and Bandon Dunes. No golfer can watch those without getting at least a slight flutter in the heart.
I wish the documentary had more of the Scottish caddies. You could make an entire documentary just based on them. Humorously, some of the caddies had subtitles, even though they ostensibly speak English.
One of the most interesting stories was of Greg Puga, a Bel Air Country Club Caddie who won the US Mid-Am in 2000 and played in the 2001 Masters.
In Loopers, Baffa explores not only current relationships, but also the history of the job. Beginning with a Monty-Python style animation on the origins of golf, the documentary traces their rise from ne’er-do-well bag carriers to — for a few — multimillionaire status as caddies for star players on Tour.
An intriguing aspect of this transition is how the use of local caddies on the Tour was gradually phased out in favor of the players’ full time, personal caddies. Augusta National dropped its’ local-caddies-only rule in 1983. The Western Open, which benefited the Evans Scholarship for caddies, ended its local caddies only rule in 1986.
The documentary notes that no rookie has won the Masters since the elimination of local caddies, which is true. However, only two rookies had won before, both in the first years of the tournament.
The documentary doesn’t say, but it seems to me likely that the decline in local caddies on Tour was coincident with clubs replacing caddies with powered carts. If there were no local caddies (or insufficient caddies), then players would need to have their own.
As Lee Trevino said in the documentary:
“When I started the tour, we had over two dozen blacks and hispanics playing the tour. where do you think these guys came from? They came from the caddy ranks. Dent, Elder, Me, Sifford, Thorpe. They all came from the caddy ranks.”
With fewer and fewer caddies, the number of African American players on Tour has — to my knowledge — dwindled to three: Tiger, Cameron Champ and Harold Varner. And this, even after the example of Tiger Woods has set over the last twenty years. One would suppose that Tiger would attract larger numbers of talented African American youth to the game. He has not, and that perhaps is due to lack of opportunity — a lack of opportunity exacerbated by the vanishing of the caddie ranks.
Another aspect that I wish Baffa had spent more time on is the implications of the class and race divides between caddies and players.
“While caddies were recognized as an undeniable asset to competitive golf, the social class system still lingered. Golfers and caddies were still separated by an unspoken line.” – Bill Murray, in Loopers.
I’d love to know more about that line, and what it has meant for society writ large.
I accept though, that Loopers is likely intended to be more celebration than critical analysis. It is hard to cover all of the social and economic implications of golf and caddies. That, perhaps, is the purview of a future film, or perhaps a book. Maybe Ken Burns wants to tackle it.
Loopers is worth seeking out at a local theatre, or watching for when it inevitably shows up on DVD, cable or Netflix.
Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk – Movie Review was first published on GolfBlogger.Com