Sunday, September 11, 2011

Life in 'Utopia': See, think, feel

(Reprinted from today's Times and News-Star)

“Seven Days of Utopia” has been in theaters a week and probably won’t last much longer.

There is no bad language, no nudity (unless you count the cow and horses), no special effects and only one car crash, and that’s just when a guy in a Chevy dodges the naked cow on a rural two-lane, plows through a rancher’s wooden fence and lands in a pasture. (If you’re into symbolism, the driver’s life at this point is one big cow patty.)

The movie uses golf as a backdrop for each of us getting to a place we long to go, “a place where the voice of truth resides…a place of eternal trophies.” But it is no mystical golf movie with fog and knickers like that Matt Damon/Will Smith effort of a few years past which, thank goodness, I’ve blocked. (“The Legend of Bagger Vance.” Just came to me, most unfortunately. “Golf in the Kingdom” was another double bogey.)

The movie is based on “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia,” a book by David L. Cook, a “Peak Performance” coach to the San Antonio Spurs during their NBA world championship days, to PGA Tour champs, Olympians, and a continuing star-studded list. He played college golf at Louisiana Tech and today coaches, leads seminars and writes. The sequel to his first book has no release date, but you can hear the first chapter online at

The movie stars Lucas Black as the “lost” rookie touring pro and Robert Duvall, my favorite actor, as his unlikely mentor. Black played the quarterback in the movie “Friday Night Lights” and spilled from his guts one of my favorite movie lines to his “coach” in the movie, Billy Bob Thornton: “I cain’t get my mind right!”
He can’t in “Utopia” either, until Duvall golf whispers him to the promised land.

Golf is a game of “feel,” a fact to which I can attest. At the 19th hole, I’ve often felt for my wallet, then felt it much lighter than when the round began. Sigh…
But “Utopia” testifies that once the basics of either life or the golf swing are covered, the true and lasting progress and success is inside, is in seeing and in feeling and in trusting.

The movie is an efficient 100 minutes; there is a boy-girl element that’s not in the book, but hey, that’s Hollywood, and hopefully word of that will nudge girls to attend with their boyfriends. There’s also some needless male ego/rivalry.

But true to the short novel, the spotlight is on the golfer and the wise old cowboy played by Duvall, a former PGA player who found his game before he found his grave. The movie is for anyone who has ever played golf, anyone who has ever felt “something” in life might be missing, or anyone who has ever had a father.

The book’s an easy 150 pages. A few things I highlighted in my copy…

“To stay in balance, you have to have control of your emotions. You have to expect the unexpected at all times."

“People say they are going to change, but without accountability, they seldom do.”

“You have to let go of perfect to be an artist.”

"…he taught that giving of self was so crucial in life. It returns like rain to the soul, reviving the parched places.”

“…time to contemplate, time to listen to the learning, is crucial in the change process.”

See you on the tee box.