BEYOND THE ROPES
"Tommy's Honour" brings a legend to life
February 15, 2017
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Jason Connery made the story of Old Tom Morris a reality. (Neil Davidson/Roadside Attractions)
It’s been five years now but Jason Connery remembers the phone call like it was yesterday.
A friend, Jim Kreutzer, who is a movie producer, had just bought the rights to the book, “Tommy’s Honour.” Kreutzer knew Connery was an avid golfer, and he wanted to see if his friend thought the story had potential for the big screen.
Connery, an actor and director whose father, Sean, is the man who brought James Bond to life, was intrigued.
He’s played the game since he was 10 when his dad gave him a cut-down 7-iron. Although he was born in England, Connery had gone to boarding school in Scotland and he still owns a cottage in the Borders, about 38 miles south of Edinburgh.
So, the story of Old Tom Morris, the long-time groundskeeper at St. Andrews, and his son and namesake – who between them won eight of the first 12 Open Championships -- was very familiar. At least, that’s what Connery thought.
The more he read Kevin Cook’s book, though, the more he realized golf lore was just part of the story.
Sure, there were matches, the local champions in places like Mussselburgh and North Berwick and St. Andrews squaring off against each other after work. And there was gambling and drinking and fighting amongst those who came to watch.
But “Tommy’s Honour” is also what one journalist called a “chick flick for men” as the younger Morris courts a woman nine years his elder, a woman disgraced after having an illegitimate child. Not to mention, there is the requisite generational divide with his father that rings true even today.
“I didn’t know the kind of ins and outs of actually what happened with his son dying at the age of 24 essentially of a broken heart when his wife died in childbirth,” Connery said during a recent telephone interview.
“These men of course had a passion for the game but really, when I read it, it became obvious that it was a family drama and ostensibly a love story.”
So Connery called Kreutzer back. He talked about his vision, how he saw the movie as multi-layered and about so much more than golf. And by the end of the conversation, Connery had signed on to direct.
The movie was a labor of love for the 54-year-old Connery, who counts among his fondest memories the days he spent on the golf course with his family. Or simply watching his dad play, as he did once when Sean’s partner was Jack Nicklaus at St. Andrews.
To say the game has been an integral part of Sean Connery’s life would be putting it mildly. In fact, he met his second wife, Micheline Roquebrune, in the early 1970s at a golf tournament in Morocco.
“One of the things that happened when you won the men’s and women’s competition was you had the first dance at the evening gala,” Jason said. “So they danced together, and they had a love for the game.”
And as it turns out, each other.
The two have been married more than 40 years, and Jason visited them at their Bahamas estate just two weeks ago. He and his stepbrother, Stephane, played a nine-hole scramble with the elder Connery, who turns 87 this year and recently had his sixth hole-in-one.
“My dad’s very competitive,” Jason said. “He doesn’t like to practice because for him when it really comes together is when he’s playing a match.”
Jason’s own love-hate affair with the game has evolved, too.
He remembers throwing a club as a kid and being appropriately chastised by his father who imposed a one-month ban on the game. The next time he got angry on the course, Jason hit himself in the head with a club.
“I literally punched myself and woke up on the floor,” Jason said. “… I don’t know what I was thinking.”Jason Connery's love for the game of golf began with his father, Sean. (Neil Davidson/Roadside Attractions)
Golf played a role in one of Sean Connery’s most famous films, “Goldfinger.” Many think the man who set the tone for the entire 007 franchise learned the game for the movie, which was the third in the series and among seven in which Sean played the secret agent.
Jason, though, remembers his dad playing golf before the movie. In an interesting twist, he once played Ian Fleming, who wrote the James Bond novels, in a film called “Spymaker,” which was filmed at Stoke Podges, also the site where 007 played his match with Goldfinger.
The love and respect for his father runs deep. Jason showed Sean the early drafts of the script for “Tommy’s Honour” and deemed his input “really helpful.”
“He just has a strong sense of story and it’s always nice to have someone with a different perspective,” Jason said. “Sometimes you can’t see the trees for the woods because you’re so involved.”
“Tommy’s Honour” has been shown at several festivals around the world and opens in the United States on April 14 with premieres in Chicago and New York City. It won last year’s award for best picture given by BAFTA Scotland, which is the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Sean Connery saw “Tommy’s Honor” at the Island House Film Festival held in January 2016 in Nassau. He’d seen the movie on TV but this was the first time on a big screen with optimum sound.
“He loved it,” Jason said. “It was lovely watching him watching it because he was very involved. … One of his comments was that he felt immediately in the world which was a big compliment to me.”
Jason Connery is pleased with the finished product, and he hopes movie-goers will give the film a chance. So far, the reaction has been very positive, particularly the comments he received during a Q&A session in Palm Springs.
“I loved the fact that many of the people who saw it said they came into it thinking of one thing but when the film was finished they had a very different sense of what it was,” Jason said.
“They were moved by it, affected by it, which is good.”
Beyond The Ropes is PGA TOUR Digital’s new weekly column focusing on lifestyle stories and features in the world of golf. If you have a story suggestion, please email Helen Ross at email@example.com