By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Honestly, I wish I could have met Maurice Flitcroft.
If for no other reason to ask him what he was thinking when he lied about being a pro golfer.
Flitcroft was the 46-year-old shipyard crane operator from Barrow-in-Furness, (Northwest England) who became bored with his job at the same time layoffs at the company were imminent.
After stumbling across the British Open Golf Tournament on TV, he decided to become a pro golfer and enter the prestigious tournament. He never played a round of golf in his life and convinced his wife to help him fill out an application claiming he was indeed a pro golfer. Guess what? Flitcroft was invited to play in the 1976 British Open.
What he managed to pull off is just unbelievable and the subject of the funny and quirky new movie, "The Phantom of the Open"
from director Craig Roberts ("Eternal Beauty").
In "The Phantom of the Open," Academy Award-winning actor Mark Rylance ("Bridge of Spies," "Don't Look Up" and "The Trial of the Chicago 7") plays Maurice Flitcroft and Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins ("Spencer," "The Shape of Water" and "Wonka") stars as his wife Jean.
At first no one takes Flitcroft seriously about his newfound profession especially his adopted son Michael (Jake Davies, "Artemis Fowl"), his disco dancing twin sons Gene and James (Christian Lees, "Pistol") and Jonah Lees (TV's "The Letter for The King"), his best friend Willie (Johann Myers, TV's 'Halo"), and even his wife (Hawkings).
When Flitcroft manages to deceive the British Open Officials including Keith Mackenzie (Rhys Ifans, "Spider-Man: No Way Home") on multiple occasions, his life takes a very strange turn. He winds up with the horrific score of 121, over par in the qualifying round. It was the worst score in the British Open's history and remains so today.
The funny thing is, Flitcroft wasn't the least embarrassed by his showing and when asked by the press about being the worst golfer in the world, he said he simply needed to practice more. Nothing phased this guy.
Anyone who has taken up golf knows how frustrating it can be. Consequently, several amateur golfers begin to see Flitcroft as a hero of sorts and he developed quite a following.
Flitcroft enjoyed the notoriety that golfing brought him although the elite golfing establishment couldn't take being embarrassed by him. They went to great lengths to ban him from as many golf courses as possible.
Even then Flitcroft, had more tricks up his sleeve and continued his ruse as the great pretender. He entered tournaments using fake pseudonyms like Arnold Palmtree, Gene Pacecki and Gerald Hoppy, among others. Hilarious.
You can't help but laugh and, in some ways, admire Flitcroft for having such gall to pull off something like this. Of course, what he did was wrong. It would never happen today which is one of the reasons why "The Phantom of the Open" is so funny and entertaining.
At the end of the movie, they show the real Maurice Flitcroft who died in 2007. He was 77 years old. Rylance captures Flitcroft to a tee and brings humor and warmth to the character.
I just hope that "The Phantom of the Open"-- which bows in limited release June 3 and a wider release on June 17--finds an audience and doesn't get lost in the shuffle of the summer blockbusters. It's a surprisingly fun and different type of sports drama that is sure to win you over.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.
Watch This Trailer For "THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.