The Golf Documentaries That We Most Want to See Made
FULL SWING, the Netflix documentary series following a year in the life of the PGA Tour, has sparked a huge amount of interest. When the producers came up with the idea they could not possibly have imagined what would follow.
It was meant to focus on PGA Tour players and tournaments. That did happen, of course, but the programme-makers also got the added bonus of LIV Golf. It makes for riveting viewing.
It got me wondering about the documentaries and real-life movies that never happened but would surely have been ratings winners.
Here’s just some of what I would like to have seen...
The life and times of...
Has there ever been a more colourful and controversial character than the Wild Thing? He burst upon the scene at the 1991 US PGA Championship at Crooked Stick like a breath of fresh air and four years later won The Open at St Andrews. Those two victories would provide enough material for a docu-series. But throw in the marriages, the battle with drink, the obsessions with all things sweet and sickly, the temper tantrums, the health battles and the fact that he never contended in another major and you have all the ingredients for an award-winning show.
How to win friends and influence people...
Read this and tell me you wouldn’t watch….Controversy has followed Captain America for most of his life. He was one of the best amateur golfers in the world and enjoyed considerable success on the college circuit. But he was arrested for under-age drinking and using a fake ID and was thrown out of Georgia University before enrolling at Augusta State University. He lost in the final of the US Amateur Championship in 2008.
Reed turned professional in 2011 and earned his PGA Tour card for the 2013 season. His first victory came at the 2013 Wyndham Championship, where he beat Jordan Spieth in a playoff. The following year he won the Humana Challenge and the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He won again in 2015 and 2016 before his biggest success, winning The Masters at Augusta in 2018. In total he won nine PGA Tour events before defecting to LIV Golf in 2022.
He has been at the centre of several controversies. He was accused of improving his lie at the Hero World Challenge in 2019 and was involved in another rules row at the Farmers Insurance Open in 2021. And before the 2023 Dubai Desert Classic got under way he was involved in a spat with Rory McIlroy that ended with Reed accusing the Northern irishman of being an immature child.
The trials and tribulations...
Lyle won The Open in 1985 and added The Masters three years later. He had the world at his feet and then, for reasons known only to himself, opted to change his golf swing. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall as he went from teacher to teacher trying to improve his game and succeeding only in losing the arguably the most natural talent the game has ever seen. It would have been fascinating to have heard him talk us through his thinking and the feelings of despair as he went from bad to worse.
SuperMex is one of the most gifted men ever to pick up a golf club but before he turned professional he was, by his own admission, a golf hustler. He would take on people for money that he didn’t have. To say that he lived life on the edge is a huge understatement. And he took money from some pretty dodgy characters. His life as a hustler would make a decent Hollywood movie.
The 1996 Masters...
Can you imagine a fly-on-the-wall documentary on Norman at the 1996 Masters? He had come so close so many times, and this was the major that Norman really wanted to win. And, lo and behold, he started brilliantly and began the final round with a five-shot lead over his nemesis, Nick Faldo. It seemed that Norman was about to fulfil his destiny. But fate had something else in store for him. He shot 78, Faldo fired a flawless 67. Yes, we saw it unfold on TV but we didn’t get to hear what was said or how Norman reacted when he returned to the clubhouse. It would have made for compulsive viewing.
Why does nobody love me?
As a player, Norman was one of the most exciting golfers the world has ever seen. But much of his life has been a car crash. There was his disastrous short-lived marriage to tennis legend Chris Evert for starters. But how wonderful would it have been had the cameras been following him as he began the process that led to him becoming chief executive of LIV Golf? And wouldn’t we have loved to have seen his reaction to all the criticism he received from the likes of Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy? This is the documentary I would pay to see.
Warts and all...
(Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography)
Woods is a notoriously private man. And it is not difficult to understand why. King Richard was a blockbuster of a movie that charted the way Richard Williams drove his daughters, Venus and Serena, to the top of the tennis world. If you saw it then you know what jaw-dropping viewing it was. But you can be certain it would be pretty tame stuff when compared with a film or documentary based on how Tiger’s father, Earl, brought up his boy. Woods Snr made his boy believe that he could do and achieve anything he wanted. And boy did he ever! Just ask all the women that led to his ultimate downfall. We all thought that Woods was simply the greatest golfer in the world until November 2009 when he crashed his car and it emerged that his wife had discovered he was a serial philanderer. It all ended up with him making a public appearance and admitting that he had been cheating. He returned to the golf course after taking time away from the game and quickly started winning again. But then his body began to fail him. He became addicted to painkillers and was arrested after police found him in his car in a daze. He then battled back and, incredibly, won The Masters in 2019, before another car crash that nearly cost him his life. This is a story Hollywood will surely want to tell at some point.
The rise and fall and rise again...
There is a great prize to be had for the TV producer who can persuade Jordan Spieth to allow the cameras to follow him. And had anybody had the foresight to do so after he won The Open in 2017 they would have had an award-winning documentary as he went from champ to chump and then back to champ again. Nobody wears their heart on their sleeve in quite the way that Spieth does. He would quickly become a worldwide TV star.
From the slums to the fairways...
There is a perception that golf is a game for people with money. Just ask Angel Cabrera if that’s the case. He grew up in the slums in Argentina and his family had nothing. His father was a handyman and his mother was a maid. They split up when Cabrera was little more than a toddler and ended up living with his paternal grandmother until he was 16. He then moved in with a woman who was 12 years older than he was, and they had a son. He became a caddie at the age of 10 and learnt how to play golf and was eventually spotted by Eduardo Romero, who spotted something special in Cabrera and helped him out financially. He would, of course, go on to win The Masters and US Open. That would be good enough but then his story took an unbelievable twist…
In January 2021, Cabrera was arrested in Rio de Janeiro when Interpol issued a red notice after he left Argentina without authorisation following the start of a trial where he was facing a number of criminal charges, including assault, theft and intimidation. He was extradited to Argentina and in July 2021 he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison. In November 2022, he was convicted of a second assault and sentenced to an additional two years and four months in prison. If you watched his story unfold on TV you simply wouldn’t believe it.
Behind the scenes...
The men in green jackets do things their own way - and always have. They are a pretty secretive lot who pride themselves on staging the world’s most iconic major golf tournament. It was the 21st century before they admitted their first women and black members. How captivating would it be if they ever agreed to throw open their doors to the TV cameras?
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