Life Lessons from a Golf Caddy

Bagger Vance Movie jacketBETTER

I am not a golf person. I don’t play it and I don’t watch it on TV. So what, you might be wondering, could a golf caddy teach me about life? Lots of things, actually. That is, if the caddy is Bagger Vance, the real hero in the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance.

In this marvelous film (starring Will Smith as Bagger Vance, Matt Damon as Rannulph Junuh, and Charlize Theron as the former Mrs. Junuh), golf caddy Bagger Vance helps Junuh get his golf swing back after life has beat him down. But as you’ll see, Junuh not only gets his golf swing back, he gets a new perspective on life, thanks to Bagger.

Here are a few lessons on life that I took from the movie:

Sometimes life takes you down for the count

Bagger Vance Will looking at Matt

And sometimes we need to stay down for a while. Lick our wounds. Let ourselves heal. But eventually we have to pick ourselves up, get our bearings, and find our way back to ourselves.

In Legend of Bagger Vance, Junuh returned from World War 1 a different man. He had no interest in returning to his wife or to the game of golf. Eventually he returns to the game, but his swing is gone and he has no enthusiasm for the sport. Or for life, it seems. In this scene, Bagger helps Junuh find his way back to both.

To set the scene, Junuh is playing in a tournament with the two greatest players in the sport. He starts off well, but quickly loses his confidence and his swing:

Bagger: Ain’t a soul on this entire earth ain’t got a burden to carry he don’t understand, you ain’t alone in that… But you been carryin’ this one long enough… Time to go on… lay it down…

Junuh: I don’t know how…

Bagger: You got a choice… You can stop… Or you can start…

Junuh: Start?

Bagger: Walkin

Junuh: Where?

Bagger: Right back to where you always been… and then stand there… Still… real still… And remember…

Junuh: It’s too long ago…

Bagger: Oh no sir, it was just a moment ago… Time for you to come on out the shadows Junuh… Time for you to choose…

Junuh: I can’t…

Bagger: Yes you can… but you ain’t alone… I’m right here with ya… I’ve been here all along… Now play the game (live your life)… Your game (life)… The one that only you was meant to play (live)… The one that was given to you when you come into this world… You ready?… Stike that ball Junuh. Don’t hold nothin back. Give it everything… Now’s the time… Let yourself remember… Remember YOUR swing (life)… That’s right Junuh, settle yourself… Let’s go… Now is the time, Junuh…

Sometimes you have to get out of the way and let life happen

Bagger Vance Will and Matt on course2

Sometimes, despite our best efforts to control our lives and the universe, things don’t work out the way we planned. Sometimes we need to stop trying so hard, and just maybe, if we can let go of the reins, we can accept that things always work out the way they’re supposed to.

It’s late in the tournament, and Junuh is trying desperately to control a swing that, before the war, came effortlessly to him.

Bagger: There’s a perfect shot out there trying to find each and every one of us. All we’ve got to do is get ourselves out the way and let it choose us. You can’t see that flag (life) as some dragon you got to slay. You got to look with soft eyes, see the place where the tides and the seasons and the turnin’ of the earth all come together, and everything that is becomes one. You got to seek that place with your soul Junuh… Seek it with your hands, don’t think about it… Feel it… Your hands is wiser than your head ever gonna be… Now I can’t take you there Junuh… Just hopes I can help you find a way… Just you… that ball… that flag… and all you are…

Sometimes we need to stop thinking, and just Be

Late in the match, Junuh was starting to understand what Bagger was trying to teach him. He was starting to master the skill of “being able to think without falling asleep.”

I dare you to try this experiment. Close your eyes and say to yourself, “I wonder how long it will be before my next thought comes.” Did you do it? How long do you think it was before your first thought came? Seconds? It was for me the first time I tried it. That’s when I fully realized that I needed practice in quieting my mind and I took up meditation (yoga is good for this, too). When my mind is quiet, my creativity is at its highest, and my stress level its’ lowest.

The only person truly hurt by a lie is the one who tells it

Bagger Vance Harley Begging not to

On the second to last hole, tied with the other two opponents, Junuh calls a penalty shot on himself. His two opponents tried to convince him not to, for neither wanted to win that way. His young caddy apprentice, Harley, begged him not to. “Nobody will know,” Harley says. “I’ll know,” Junuh says, “and so will you.”

It’s at this point that Bagger walks off into the sunset, leaving young Harley to finish caddying the last hole. I won’t tell you if Junuh wins the tournament, but win or lose, Junuh has a new perspective on life. And thanks to this wonderful film, so do I.

If you haven’t seen the movie yet, it’s worth watching. If you’ve seen it before, it might be worth another watch.

6 comments on… “Life Lessons from a Golf Caddy”

  1. This is a WONDERFUL film Suzanne. I appreciate you writing this post just so I could be reminded of some of the moments in it. 🙂 A quiet mind is essential. I have had a goal of short meditation times regularly through the day, but have fallen miserably out of practice. Just yesterday I made a commitment to get my head clear again. Then I read this post. Serendipity? We may never know… 🙂

    • Me too, Jason. I even set Outlook reminders to do it and ignore them 🙂 I can’t believe I never saw this movie before, but then, I might not’ve received the message as clearly if I’d seen in 10+ years ago.

  2. Inspiring and insightful piece! Just today I turned off my music while running to just “hear” how my mind and body were reacting and feeling. It was my longest run to date so I was feeling anxious about it. I gained a lot of peace and a sense of accomplishment from the experience!

    • Congrats on the longest run to date! It’s an accomplishment for sure. I too like to turn off my music every now and then and focus either on my body or the beauty around me. Sometimes I focus on being grateful that my body can move in this way, and without pain.

  3. Way to go! You’ve written another inspiring post. I love that movie. It was great seeing you Saturday, even if it was only for a little while!

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