Loopers: The Caddie's Long Walk

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Loopers
"Neat little potted history that it is, it doesn't really require the viewer to know the sport in depth." | Photo: Courtesy of EIFF

Caddying is a popular choice for young golf fans, a way of blagging one's way onto private courses and getting to learn more about the game, but what does it mean to choose it as a career? To most people it looks like little more than carrying bags all day, acting as a servant to rich tourists. Indeed, that's pretty much how it started out. But things have changed, and Jason Baffa's documentary, narrated by keen golfer Bill Murray, explores the caddie's journey from pack animal to valued team player.

Neat little potted history that it is, with animated sections standing in for archive footage as it details the early days, it doesn't really require the viewer to know the sport in depth, though you'll get more out of it if you're familiar with some of the big names who put in an appearance. Less well known than the players are those caddies who have played important roles in transforming the way the job is understood, discovering the little tricks and secrets that enable mastery of their local courses. Baffa tells their stories and looks at the pairings that have led to repeated tournament success.

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There's a strong class element underlying all this. The original caddies were prized for their vulgarity and although professional codes eventually emerged, they continued to be drawn from the ranks of the working class, enabling rich players to get a taste of their lives without getting too close. In the US this manifested along racial lines but, in so doing, paved the way for black players to compete. Whilst there's something uncomfortable about the idea of the caddie as somebody whose friendship can be purchased for a day, and who is sometimes expected to perform in accordance with a particular cultural stereotype, it's plain that real friendships have emerged from this and that some of the caddies love meeting and spending time with different people from around the world. Like hairdressers, taxi drivers or attentive writers, they find themselves privy to intimate confessions and all manner of secrets.

Not every caddie is a young thing studying the game; for many of the older ones, there's a mentorship aspect to what they do, helping players to develop the personal qualities required for success - another aspect of teamwork. Players like Nick Faldo are serious when they credit their caddies with much of their success. Through their presence the game is transformed from a lonely competitive experience to a rare example of a sport in which emotional support is available during the game itself.

Scattered through this are little insights into some of the world's great courses and what it takes to tackle them. The scenery is beautiful and one caddie explains that he sees his role as a privileged one because he meets players who have waited their whole lives to spend time on a course where he spends every day. This may be outdoor work with heavy lifting but it's not short on rewards and Baffa's film teases them out like those secrets shared on a long walk along the links.

Reviewed on: 19 Jul 2019
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Loopers: The Caddie's Long Walk packshot
The story of the bond between golfer and caddie.

Director: Jason Baffa

Writer: Carl Cramer

Starring: Bill Murray

Year: 2018

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

EIFF 2019

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