Perhaps I’m a bit late to the party, but over the past year I’ve come to really appreciate my Netflix subscription. The company is producing quality original programming these days – from the rebirth of the somewhat legendary sitcom “Arrested Development” to the awesome new comedy/drama, “Orange Is The New Black” – Netflix is challenging the likes of HBO and Showtime.
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Now the folks at the subscription TV service have decided to produce their first original documentary…and the’ve chosen golf as their topic. But what really got my attention is this documentary doesn’t focus on the PGA Tour or any of the paid tours for that matter (which, let’s face it, would be an utter snore). Instead, it focuses on kids. The appropriately titled documentary ”The Short Game” is set to debut Thursday on Netflix and GolfStinks was given an advanced screening.
The story centers around eight of the most competitive golfers from around the world. The only catch? They’re 7 years old. These kids are the best golfers in their respective corners of the globe (amongst their age group) and are followed as they train for and compete in the World Championship of Junior Golf (which happens to take place at the famed Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina – lucky little tykes).
The kids are silly; a bit shy; sometimes awkward; and absolutely charming in the presence of the cameras. They all have great swings and a raw talent for the game. But to see a 7-year-old girl weight training because she’s getting out-driven on the tee by her peers is a bit shocking. Or the boy who’s up at the crack of dawn to run with his workout coach (who also happens to be wearing a CrossFit T-shirt). It is obvious from the very beginning: This is a serious competition.
Though as with any organized competition amongst youngsters, the storyline is also about the parents. To be sure, the parents are going to do whatever it takes to ensure their child does his or her best.
And this is where The Short Game becomes exemplary. It highlights the vast difference in parenting styles – from those that feel their child’s experience is more important than the final score; to those that feel the only important thing is the final score.
There’s a father from South Africa whose son is trying his hardest to break into the top 20. He wants his son to accomplish this goal, but more so, he wants his son to enjoy the experience. Meanwhile, there’s a dad from California who wants his daughter to be the next Tiger Woods. By the end of the documentary, we learn both father and daughter are in anger management counseling. (Tiger would be proud).
There’s the mom that teaches her son how to play with dignity (regardless of the outcome), and the superstitious dad that changes his daughter’s entire routine (much to her chagrin), after her poor first round – from switching seats at breakfast to not taking a drink from a particular water jug.
There are wonderful moments in this documentary – it appears many kids are truly able to balance the competitive side with the fun side. But there are some alarming moments too. The pressures of wanting to be the best in the world would take its toll on anyone – especially a child.
Having two young kids myself, The Short Game really made me think about what golf is meant to be. Sure, being the best is great. But shouldn’t it be mostly about having fun – especially when you’re young? And if this is what it takes to produce the next PGA or LPGA player (or next professional athlete in general), is it worth it? My son is 3 – should I get him a golf coach and CrossFit trainer starting now? Perhaps a counselor to boot? Or is that overkill? After all, serious competition is just a few years away.
Regardless of the mixed-emotions I felt while watching this film, The Short Game is a fascinating look at where competitive golf begins. And to go a bit further: It is quite possibly the most telling and frank documentary ever made about this game. The film is directed by Emmy award-winner Josh Greenbaum (executive producers include Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake) and has already taken home the 2013 Audience Award at this year’s South by Southwest.
The Short Game premiers on Netflix Thursday, December 12th at 12:01 AM PT.
Penning articles that don’t necessarily focus on the PGA Tour, GolfStinks churns out content only a true weekend hack could appreciate – from funny golf stories; to product and book reviews; to hilarious (and sometimes serious) golf observations; the GolfStinks blog will keep you entertained throughout the week! Golfstinks.com: Taking the frustration out of golf since 2009!
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