A dying man reminisces while playing golf at storied course Pebble Beach.
Few sports are used as a metaphor for life as frequently as golf, a tradition carried on by Schreiber in this sometimes poignant, sometimes tedious story. When Dr. Brian Levy, a former hippie turned middle-aged physician, learns that he’s dying from a brain tumor, he decides to fulfill a dream: playing 18 holes with his father at Pebble Beach, the course where Tom Watson’s miraculous chip on 17 won the U.S. Open in 1982–one of the few true bonding moments Brian (who hated golf) shared with his father (who loved it). It wasn’t until later in life–when a knee injury forced him off the tennis court and onto the golf course–that Brian fostered his own love of the game, though his love is borne of a desire to excel, whereas his father–who doesn’t even keep score–plays for sheer pleasure. With his mother deceased and his sister unreliable, Brian worries about who will care for his dad, a previously unflappable former executive suffering from dementia. What Brian intends to be a day focused solely on golf quickly becomes a rumination on major events in his life. There’s a chapter for every hole, with each missed putt, perfect drive and breathtaking view mirroring Brian’s life, from his rebellious college years and days in medical school to his divorce and relationship with his father. It’s a clever idea, but the repetitive narrative structure quickly becomes formulaic, and Brian’s self-examination turns monotonous before he hits the back nine. Still, there are enough powerful moments–such as when Brian reveals his illness to his father, whose addled brain can’t process the information and promptly discards it–and instances of genuine insight into both golf and life to compensate for the story’s duller patches.
Bogeys a few holes, but buries enough birdies to break even.