The Long Game, New Golf Movie Could Be The Hoosiers of Golf

The Long Game is a golf movie that doesn’t have a golf legend or a funny man as the hero. It has six heroes instead, the five teens who formed the first San Felipe High School golf team and their coach, played by Dennis Quaid. Then, without the help of Trackman or Butch Harmon, and with mostly hand-me-down clubs, the five went on to win the 1957 Texas State High School Golf Championship, by a mere 35 shots.
The Long Game - 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals
The Long Game - 2023 SXSW Conference and Festivals / Frazer Harrison/GettyImages

As the director Julio Quintana said in an interview on the Golf Show 2.0, stories like this one can easily get lost. Fortunately, it wasn’t because one of the real-life protagonists, Humberto G. Garcia, decided to write a book, Mustang Miracle, about what happened to him and the rest of his friends in Del Rio, Texas, when they decided to become the school’s golf team. This movie could be the Hoosiers of golf.

The Long Game explores the intersecting paths of five Mexican-American teens and their new school superintendent, J.B. Pena, and a man who knew how to make five teen golfers better, Frank Mitchell, played by Quaid, and how they overcame obstacles of circumstance to defeat enemies of life.    

Relative newcomer, Julian Works plays Joe Trevino, who so far as we know is not related to Lee Trevino. Works, who also was interviewed on the Golf Show 2.0, said it was not hard to play a part set in the 1950s. He was to play the medalist of the team. It wasn’t a big stretch for him because he already played golf.

“Everyone knows about the, you know, the golf bug. Once you start, it's just, it's you kind of just you never stop,” Works confessed. “So, once I got the story, and then on top of that, it was a Latino story, I really felt you know really lucky to get the script.”

An interesting detail that made it easy for him to get into a character from 60 years ago was wardrobe. 

“Once you're putting on the clothes, and once you're doing the dialogue, and once you're, you know, you're saying words that were said back then, and then I just feel like you, as an actor, at least for me, it's just much easier to get in that world,” Works explained about going back decades. “You really can't really prepare yourself until you're actually doing it.”

Works was also very conscious of having a golf swing that looked right because when he goes to a movie that has a sport in it and the sports people performing incorrectly, he loses interest.

“I feel like that was one of the most important things was to make sure that my swing looked good on camera along with all the other casts,” Works added.  

According to Quintana, Works got better as the movie progressed.

“What was weird about it was that he was using 1950s clubs and if you see those clubs, the heads are so tiny, and he had these old rusty clubs,” the director added. “He was sinking putts on camera on top of that.”

The worst day of shooting for Quintana was the scene where the state champs are in a parade through the streets of Del Rio.

“Our hero car that that all these guys were sitting in actually broke down after a couple takes. It just started overheating,” Quintana explained. “This car from the 50s. We don't have mechanics on site.”

There was radiator fluid gushing out, and the only way they could finish was, literally with man and woman-power.

“We actually had our producers, we had three or four guys that just ran up and just started -- they were just pushing the car back and forth up and down the road for about an hour,” he admitted. "While it looks like Dennis is driving, we were actually just pushing that car around so that was sort of how the whole movie came together.”

He said in some ways it was similar to how the teens had to work hard to win the golf championship.  

“We just had to pull ourselves up and just keep moving no matter what happened!” he concluded.  

Quintana said he gets a little too impatient with himself to play a lot of golf. His best moves, he believes, are getting balls out of water hazards and occasionally snagging one from the range.

One endearing quality of this particular production is that a few of the real people and many of their relatives are still alive and living in Del Rio. When the movie had its premiere, the local theater sold out eight movie screen rooms and showed the production to all of them, packed, simultaneously.

This time around, all kinds of dignitaries went to the local country club to celebrate the debut. It was a chance for the producers, director, and actors to meet with those who lived the parts that were brought to the screen. The golfers: Mario Lomas, Felipe Romero, Gene Vasquez, Lupe Felan and Joe Trevino. The school superintendent: J.B. Pena.

“You never realize the impact that you have on the actual people until you actually meet them,” said Works. “To meet the people of that local community and just how much you know, just appreciation and the love that was felt,  it just really just pulled on the heartstrings, and it just reminded me of why I actually do this.” 

The town declared a perpetual Mustang Miracle Day in honor of their citizens and the movie. 

The Long Game debuts April 12th.

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