Terry Jastrow is the writer and director of "The Squeeze," a new golf movie opening in theaters and video on demand Friday. Jastrow, 66, worked for more than 20 years as a producer and director at ABC Sports. We spoke to him recently for Golf Digest Stix about bringing his story to the big screen. You can see the trailer below, along with an extended version of our Q&A.
Why make a golf movie? Their track record isn't great.
Like all golfers, I love to see movies with golf in them. And I had what I think is a pretty entertaining story to tell. But, you go all the way through the list of golf movies, "Follow The Sun" to "Tin Cup," and with all due respect to the actors in them, you can tell pretty quickly you're watching an actor, not a real golfer. The narrative is constantly being ruptured. So I knew I couldn't make this movie until I found actors who could really play.
How did you do that?
There were more than 1,000 submissions for the lead role of Augie. We interviewed and auditioned, but the last three I took to Bel-Air Country Club, walked them to the first tee and said, "Play away please." And Jeremy Sumpter [who got the job] can really play. He has a really good swing. During the round I asked him if he could play a shot left-handed. He said, "I'm not too good at that," but then took his putter and with the back flange he flipped the ball in the air and whacked it on to the green from 120 yards. I said, "Damn, I'm putting that in the movie."
Why do you think golf movies have had such trouble connecting with audiences?
I think some of the golf movies have been too golf centric, too focused on the game. I think our movie has a broad appeal. It's more "The Sting" meets "Tin Cup." It's a heist. So you get lost in the story. For me it's a little like "The Color of Money." It's Paul Newman and Tom Cruise. You wouldn't say that's a pool movie. It's a really cool, gambler, heist, intrigue character piece.
In what ways did your experience directing tournament golf help you?
I think it boils down to the common denominator of storytelling. I grew up with the great boss and mentor and friend, Roone Arledge. And his mantra was the human drama of athletic competition. It never was only about the action. So I think my 22 years at ABC Sports while the genre was different, the fundamental lessons of it was story telling, in order to create an entertaining and compelling a program.
What was the biggest challenge in making the movie?
We shot 14 days in North Carolina and six days in Las Vegas. And every day you go on the set, regardless of how much preparation you've done, and there is just from sunup to sunset literally hundreds and probably thousands of decisions you have to make. And I tell you, I have been a producer or director to eight Olympic Games, one Super Bowl, and 62 major championships of golf, and it's the hardest thing I've ever done, but on the other hand it's so thrilling. You're say to yourself, "I'll get tired afterward."
Is the toughness because when you're directing a sporting event, you only have control over so much? Directing a movie, you have control over everything.
It does. And you know early on [with TV coverage] you do two hours of a golf tournament. The first 18 holes of live golf every covered was 1977 at the U.S. Open at Southern Hills. It was won by Hubie Green, which I directed, I'm proud to say. So now you're up to four hours, five hours. And four days of doing it. so it's not just the intensity and volume, but the length the movie takes in comparison to a sporting event. The Olympics are like 16 days. Well they don't even compare to how challenging a movie is.
What was the most enjoyable part of doing the whole thing?
Well there were a lot of things. I had a ball. I loved my cast. Jeremy Sumpter, Christopher McDonald, Michael Nouri, Jillian Murray, Katherine LaNasa. I wanted to cast people who were terrific actors and great people. I didn't want any assholes on the set. And the collaborative process was great. I had a view as a director that I want to try to create an environment for an actor to be as great as he can be. So I don't really mandate an actor does this or that. I collaborate with them. I find out their way of working and I sort of collaborate with them in their sweet spot. And we just had a ball doing it. so working with our cast will be a lifetime memory of joy. And my wife, Anne Archer, was a producer. It was so great to have her on the set. I knew she always had my back. If I was stubbing my toe, she doesn't have any problem telling me about it. so working with Anne as well.
There seems a simple answer to this, but how will you judge whether the movie has been a success?
Well I think the first criteria is your own personal sense of it. Is it a reflection of what you had hoped it would be? And honestly, the movie is better than I ever thought it would be. And then you want the public to enjoy it because that's who you do it for.. And then thirdly, it's just a fact, how does it do commercially. And we think we're going to do very well there. I've been so pleased by the early response and reviews. So I'm really excited about it.
Terry Jastrow on the set of "The Squeeze."
The LA Times reported Johnson sold his Jupiter, Fla., mansion for $5.2 million in an off-market deal. The 7,860-square foot Mediterranean-styled home was built in 2007 and was bought by Johnson in 2011 for $3.7 million.
The buyer, Alexandre Ismail, president and CEO of Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions, seems to be getting a deal on the house, which was listed for $6.5 million before being taken off the market in July. The waterfront property includes a putting green, private dock, pool, and an outdoor fireplace and dining area.
Johnson and fiancee Paulina Gretzky are expecting their first child. Perhaps, the couple is looking for something with a bit more space.
TaylorMade's Thursday night launch in New York City of its new R15 and AeroBurner lines of metalwoods also served as a coming-out party of sorts for CEO Ben Sharpe, who was available for interviews for the first time since moving into his new job in April.
Sharpe, 40, has been with the company since 2006, spending six years as TaylorMade-adidas Golf's managing director in Europe. During that time he helped double the TaylorMade business in Europe. A member of Great Britain's field hockey team that competed in the 2000 Olympics, Sharpe was born and raised in Birmingham, England and graduated from Sheffield University in 1996 with a degree in Business Studies and Financial Markets. A 7-handicap who began playing golf at age 12, he was named executive vice president of Adidas Golf and Ashworth in February 2013 before becoming CEO this year.
Golf Digest got the first interview with Sharpe, who laid out his plans for both TaylorMade and Adams Golf and how to expand golf's base without changing the fabric of the game.
Golf Digest: You spent 100 days speaking with a lot of people about TaylorMade and the brand. What did you learn?
Ben Sharpe: What surprised me is that things aren't quite as bad as everyone is making them out to be. I think there is a big difference between perception and reality, and things are never quite as bad as they seem. Or quite as good as they seem. The positive thing I heard was how excited people are about what we are going to do with TaylorMade going forward and how they are going to support us and how important we are to the industry. In short, they want us to succeed.
Some things came out consistently. One is whether it be retailers, tour players or media, people want us to be the renegade. People want us to be the innovator -- to come out with new and exciting ideas -- and when we come out with them, to speak about them in a big way and in a different way that engages consumers.
GD: Is part of that enthusiasm driven by your stated goals of managing inventories and less cascading down of prices?
Sharpe: They want us to lead that charge, but in a responsible way. Still, talk is cheap and you get judged by what you do, not by what you say. All I ask is that we get judged by what we do. We want to address the challenges, but also introduce product in a cool way. Something that hits a nerve with every golfer -- like what we did with the introduction of the RSi irons -- where the golfer says, "Yeah, that could be for me."
GD: What's the path to do that?
Sharpe: Getting back to who we are: cool, exciting and [with] technologies that are better than their predecessors. And the marketing campaigns that are around those really need to strike to the core of the golfer. That's what it is all about and maybe, over the last 18 months, we got a little bit away from who we are. Sometimes I think we got a little bit carried away with our messaging. But I think what you saw with RSi and what you'll see with R15 and AeroBurner is that we're right on point.
GD:Is the average consumer confused? Bored? Angry? Eager?
Sharpe: If you listen to the people on the blog sites I'd say they are angry. But if you listen to the golfers out there -- because a lot of people who are on the blog sites are our competitors -- I would say there is some confusion. What product is the best one for me? Why is this one better? And why does this one cost this much and why does the other one cost that much? That's not an angry emotion. They're just a little confused.
GD: What's the plan for Adams Golf?
Shapre: We had an employee question-and-answer session the other day, and one question was, "Why do you love golf?" Some people said they love to compete. Others said they searched for the perfect shot. Others said they wanted to have fun or play with their pals. So there are different reasons and there are different purchase decisions that go with that. So with TaylorMade and Adams, we can spread those brands out across all those constituencies to attract a larger portion of the golf market. I think there is an opportunity to move Adams into that fun, friendly environment, a social, easy-to-play and put-a-smile-on-your-face brand, and keep TaylorMade as the zero to 4-handicap, aspirational, tour-validated, great-technology brand. And that's the value of having both. That's the reason we brought Adams to Carlsbad. It allows us to have those conversations every day on positioning.
GD: So you know exactly what you want to do with Adams?
Sharpe: We do. It's going to be different, but will still be able to be played by the best players in the world. Their hybrid technology is fantastic, and we will continue to develop that. But Adams can stand for more than just golf products. It can stand for movement to introduce a new demographic of people who want to play rather than compete.
GD: Nonconforming equipment, perhaps?
Sharpe: We can explore that. I'm not ruling anything out. But when you look at Adams I think I just want people to smile. There are six opportunities to get in a players' bag: Driver, fairway wood, hybrid, irons, wedges and putter. If you ask people to choose five or six cars, they wouldn't just have Aston Martins. So there's some room for the Adams brand to live.
GD: Is that space beyond golf clubs?
Sharpe: Yeah, I think it can be. But we are a golf equipment company at the moment and that's what we know. So that will be the focus for now.
GD: What about Hack Golf? Where does that stand?
Sharpe: Hack Golf was an interesting exercise for us. Unfortunately it was perceived as a TaylorMade marketing initiative, and it didn't get buy in because no other company wanted to get involved. So we learned that we cannot lead that charge. But we would like to be involved in anything that will improve the health of golf and grow the sport. We're working with the PGA of America and supporting some initiatives and will continue to have the Hack Golf website and if there are any good ideas we will continue to help fund those. It's an honest attempt to address a problem.
Golf is an aspirational sport and always should be. And always will be. But if you get the net wider you can still have your country clubs and all that. People shouldn't fear growing the game. It doesn't mean that it has to change the fabric of it or the integrity of the sport. Two of my most enjoyable golf experiences are seeing my 7-year-old boy hit the ball 100 yards at a nine-hole municipal course. The other is playing a private, members-only golf club and seeing no one in front of me and no one behind me for 18 holes. And I love them equally. And you can still have both of those experiences. Just because you're trying to do something new doesn't mean you have to lose that. And I think that may be a fear and why some things aren't being embraced.
GD: What about the tour and its role for TaylorMade given the investment and the return on that investment?
Sharpe: It's a conversation we have every year and review it to make sure it is relevant. And I'm sure in 10 years our tour strategy will be different than it is today. But at the moment I think the stable of players we have and the position we have in count in metalwoods and irons is a strong message. We talked about how the facts can be exciting. And the fact is since 1979 when took something made out of wood and made it out metal, we've been the innovator in that space. And the fact is the best players in the world have embraced those innovations in a big way. No one comes close to us in that area. So in terms of why you should play this product, it's because if it's from this company it's the best innovation because we've proven that's what we do. And it's because the best players in the world rely on this equipment to put food on their table. That's two compelling reasons to buy a product.
GD: You've said you want all of TaylorMade's employees to have a voice. What is the benefit of widening that net?
Sharpe: The great thing about our industry is that it is in sport. And most people that play in sport are competitive and play to win. And we want to win together. I'm a team player and I've played team sports all my life. I kind of like winning, and I think we're going to give it a shot again.
That's what more than 1,000 residents of EastWood did on Wednesday night. The group of people, with most wearing red shirts as a sign of solidarity, crammed into the cafeteria of Avalon Middle School in Orlando, Fla., according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Here's a news clip from Orlando's NBC affiliate station:
EastWood is a community of about 2,000 homes in the Waterford Lakes area, but the owners of its golf course are trying to have it rezoned, according to the report. Developers want to turn those 182 acres into hundreds of new homes and thousands of square feet of commercial real estate.
The protests aren't all golf-related, of course. Residents fear changes would result in more traffic and crime while decreasing the value of their homes.
Jim Pratt, an attorney representing the land owners, cited "the declining, failing golf industry in America" as the main reason to rezone the course. Pratt left the meeting surprised by all the opposition. "It was an overwhelming response . . . and we'll take that back to the owner."
For this to happen, the County Commission would have to approve if the matter comes to a vote in 2015. That seems unlikely judging by commissioner Jennifer Thompson's response.
"When you do zoning, it's all about compatibility with the people who were there first," Thompson told the Sentinel. "I can't imagine they would convince me this is a good idea, but it's their legal right to go through the process."
As part of the two-day gathering -- pro/amateur golf being the focus of discussion Wednesday, everyday golf up Thursday -- Pringle will unveil a prototype tool the USGA has been developing that attaches to a flagstick (see photo) and can be used to track the time between groups on a course. The device is triggered when the flagstick is placed into the cup (which has sensors in it along with the bottom of the flag stick) by a group walking off a green after players have putted out. It then tracks the time until the flagstick is removed from the cup by golfers approaching in the next group. These "cycle times," measured throughout a course, can then be monitored collectively to address issues in real time to try and get groups moving.
According to Pringle, the USGA began looking into developing the flagstick tool to give course operators an inexpensive but practical way to measure pace of play at their facilities. "It's our feeling that there are a lot of golf courses that are going blind," Pringle says. "They have no means of measuring, and therefore controlling, pace in any way, shape or form. The thing is, you really just can't leave it to chance."
Indeed, Pringle will show the USGA, which is hosting the symposium for a second straight year, is doing anything but leaving things to chance regarding slow play when he and colleague Scott Mingay present data the association gathered during the summer. At more than 130 public and private courses around the country, golfers were given GPS loggers to track them during their rounds, recording their location and the overall time to play as well as time spent waiting to play shots, among other metrics.
Pringle says more than 5,400 rounds were tracked, with the numbers being used to help the USGA offer recommendations, policies and solutions to deal with slow play, some of which will be discussion points this week.
In trying to broadly study the problem of slow play, Pringle and Mingay have looked to other industries that similarly rely on efficiently moving people or products through a defined system. Think Walt Disney World and its lines for rides and concessions, or UPS processing and delivering packages around the world.
"I feel a little bit sheepish when I talk about this project," Pringle says. "I think what we're doing is very advanced for golf, but if you were in a factory, Henry Ford would have done this [100 years ago]. . . . It's kind of cold to describe it like that, but this is a time and motion study on a very complex factory."
By extension, the prototype flagstick tool (see the cutaway above) is an attempt to allow any facility the opportunity to study their own unique assembly line.
"We're not trying to make any money on this," Pringle says, "but we see it as an opportunity to help a lot of courses improve pace."
Not bad, but where are the golf amenities? If I'm going to pay that kind of money for a house, you've got to at least give me a practice putting green!
Apparently, Mr. Greene, who made a fortune betting against subprime mortgages (his name comes up in Michael Lewis' well-known book chronicling the build up of the credit and housing bubble, The Big Short), isn't a big golfer. He failed to include any golf features on the otherwise spectacular property that took eight years to build and has been renting for $475,000 a month.
But just look at this estate:
(Photo: Marc Angeles)
There's plenty of room for a putting green, a driving range and probably a few holes if you make one minor change. Who needs their own vineyard, anyway?