The Greatest Game Ever Played
|The Greatest Game Ever Played|
|Directed by||Bill Paxton|
|Produced by||David Blocker
|Written by||Mark Frost|
|Music by||Brian Tyler|
|Edited by||Elliot Graham|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|September 30, 2005|
|Box office||$15.4 million|
The Greatest Game Ever Played is a 2005 biographical sports film based on the early life of golf champion Francis Ouimet. The film was directed by Bill Paxton; Shia LaBeouf plays the role of Ouimet. The film's screenplay was adapted by Mark Frost from his book, The Greatest Game Ever Played: Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, and the Birth of Modern Golf. It was shot in Montreal, Canada, with the Kanawaki Golf Club, in Kahnawake, Quebec, the site of golf sequences.
Set mainly in 1913, the film is about Francis Ouimet, the first amateur to win a U.S. Open. Amateur golf in that era was then a sport only for the wealthy, and Ouimet came from an immigrant family that was part of the working class. Ouimet watches an exhibition by legendary British golf pro Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) as a 7-year-old boy, and becomes very interested in golf. He begins as a caddy at The Country Club, a posh enclave located across the street from his home in suburban Brookline, Massachusetts, while making friends with the other caddies. He works on his own golf game at every chance, and gradually accumulates his own set of clubs. Francis practices putting at night in his room. He wins the Massachusetts Schoolboy Championship.
One day, a Club member, Mr. Hastings, asks Ouimet to play with him over The Country Club course, where caddies have almost no access of their own, and he shoots a fine round of 81 despite a 9 on one hole. His talent, composure, and good manners earn admirers and interest. With the help of Mr. Hastings and the Club Caddiemaster, Francis gets a chance to play in an upcoming tournament, the U.S. Amateur, the local qualifying for which is to be held at the very same Country Club course. However, his father Arthur (Elias Koteas) tells his son to quit golf and get a "real job". Ouimet needs $50 for the entry fee, and so agrees to get a real job and never play golf again if he could not qualify; his father lends him the money. On the 18th, Francis faces a three-foot putt that would secure him a spot in the championship, but he looks over and his father is watching. Ouimet is distracted, misses and falls one stroke short of qualifying for the championship proper.
With much jeer from the rich folk, Ouimet, now 20, fulfills his promise to his dad and works at a sporting goods shop, while continuing to live at home. After some time with his golf forgotten, Ouimet is still at the bottom of the working class. But one day, the president of the United States Golf Association enters the store and personally invites him to play in the upcoming U.S. Open. After some maneuvering and consideration from his employer, Ouimet secures entry. His father informs Ouimet that he must find his own place to live after the tournament; Ouimet agrees. However, his mother has been supportive of his golf from the start.
Ouimet competes in the 1913 U.S. Open that takes place at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, the familiar course located across the street from his home. Against all odds, with ten-year-old Eddie Lowery (Josh Flitter) playing hookey from school to caddy for him, he beats the British champions Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, then considered the world's best golfers, in an 18-hole playoff, following their three-way tie after the regulation 72 holes, and becomes the first amateur ever to win the U.S. Open. His extraordinary feat even wins over his father.
The movie shows a dramatic finish in the playoff, with Ouimet sinking a putt on the 18th hole to win the Championship by a single stroke. In reality, Ouimet finished birdie-par on 17 and 18 to Vardon's bogey-double bogey to end the playoff five strokes clear of Vardon and six ahead of Ray. The movie also shows the playoff as being in fair weather, and moves the rain to the third round. In the movie the historical 17th hole plays as a "dog leg right" when in fact at Brookline Country Club is played as a "dog leg left".
- Shia LaBeouf as Francis Ouimet
- Stephen Dillane as Harry Vardon
- Josh Flitter as Eddie Lowery
- Peter Firth as Lord Northcliffe
- Peyton List as Sarah Wallis
- Elias Koteas as Arthur Ouimet
- Marnie McPhail as Mary Ouimet
- Len Cariou as Stedman Comstock
- Stephen Marcus as Ted Ray
- Max Kasch as Freddie Wallis
- Mike 'Nug' Nahrgang as Baritone
The film opened at #9 at the U.S. box office in its opening weekend grossing US$3,657,322.
The film received generally positive reviews, from golf fans and non fans of the sport alike. Roger Ebert gave it three of four stars, stating it gave the real history of the greatest golf match with a strong human element while showing the golf play in a "gripping story". He notes that he is "not a golf fan but found (it) absorbing all the same... Paxton and his technicians have used every trick in the book to dramatize the flight and destination of the golf balls. We follow balls through the air, we watch them creep toward the green or stray into the rough, we get not only an eagle's-eye view but a club's-eye view and sometimes, I am convinced, a ball's-eye view."  On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes 63% of critics gave the film a positive review making it "fresh" and summarizes the film as "Despite all the underdog sports movie conventions, the likable cast and lush production values make The Greatest Game Ever Played a solid and uplifting tale."
Home video releases
The film has been released on DVD by Walt Disney Home Entertainment. Special features include two "making of" documentaries with cast and crew members, plus a rare 1963 interview with the real Francis Ouimet on WGBH, the Boston public television station, at Brookline, Massachusetts golf course where the 1913 U.S. Open took place. It was released on Blu-ray Disc in 2009, and again as a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack in 2011.