Where the Light Air of Childhood Meets Sports Professionalism in The Short Game


The U.S. Golf Kids World Championship Tournament at Pinehurst, America’s largest course, invites players up to age 12. It was a canny choice, though, for Josh Greenbaum’s The Short Game to follow only seven- and eight-year-old competitors. It’s the “give me the child, I’ll give you the man” age, when kids are steeped in childhood yet emerging as whomever they’ll become. This calls to mind the Michael Apted project that began with 7 Up in 1964, following 14 English children of different classes throughout their lives. If The Short Game has any such ambitions, they’re not evident. The film follows eight young golfers and their families from varied socioeconomic, cultural, and international backgrounds, adding heft to the kiddo-sports charm but no real focus. At worst, it flirts with the superficialities of the kids-say-the-darndest-things and sports-as-metaphor-for-life varieties. But it stays dedicated to revealing the striving, joy, and anxiety of people who, though they still may sometimes cling tightly to stuffed animals, must approach a game with a high level of sports professionalism. The parents’ role is complicated, sometimes cringeworthy, sometimes admirable. Most poignant is the task of Andre Avery, whose talented daughter’s emotions often undermine her competition. The film works not just because it makes golf enjoyable to watch, but also because, by the end, you get to know these kids. It would be nice to see how they’re doing in seven years.