The Phantom of The Open
0 6 mins 1 yr

Just finished watching the movie, The Phantom of The Open, and if you haven’t yet seen it. Do. Maurice Flitcroft was named the world’s worst golfer back in the 1970s. He was infamous for playing in The Open Championship qualifiers for his very first round of golf, as a bogus professional. He shot the highest ever round of 121 and was banned from, ever playing again in an Open qualifier.

Yes, Maurice had never previously played a round of golf on a golf course. He was a retrenched crane driver from the shipyards in his early fifties and was looking for a new career.

Golf seemed to fit the bill after he caught a snippet on the tele of Tom Watson winning The Open in 1975 (over Jack Newton).

The Phantom of The Open with Seve 
 - Maurice Flitcroft
Seve & Maurice

Maurice Flitcroft World’s Worst Golfer

The scenes of Maurice hacking his way around a prestigious course for the British Open qualifier are priceless. The other tournament pros are flummoxed to say the least and the spectators are bemused. Eventually, they get behind Maurice as he becomes the bewildered fan favourite.

His twin, disco dancing, sons caddy for him during the round. The seventies’ golf fashion is suitably appalling and reminds me just how daggy golf appeared to me growing up.

British Open officials are alerted to the impostor on the course, as are the press who seize on Maurice to enliven their coverage of the Open Championship. The newspapers have a field day splashing photos and stories about Maurice Flitcroft across their tabloids.

Mark Rylance plays Maurice Flitcroft in The Phantom of The Open

Is Golf Open To All Comers?

As with all funny films and ridiculous characters like Maurice there is always something going on at the heart of the story. There is the archetype of the fool who has the courage to follow his or her dream despite the odds and opposition.

The Phantom of The Open has plenty of this in terms of love of wife and love of family. There is a message for golf too in this silly movie underneath the gaffs and absurdity. Maurice Flitcroft tried to join his local golf club but they wouldn’t have him and did not extend a welcome. The tossers running this golf club felt that they were too exclusive for the likes of Maurice. Golf was very much like this back in the 1970s and 1980s, especially in Britain. Clubs were run by people who thought they were a cut above the hoi poloi. If Maurice had been welcomed by his local golf club he would have very likely realised that he wasn’t ready for The Open. A few friendly members would have set him straight on the level required.

Maurice is set on his course after colliding with the snooty ‘up themselves’ face of golf. This status obsessed clique was all too common in golf clubs back in the day. The Royal blah blah Golf Clubs and their poncy committees excluding those who don’t quite measure up in their eyes. Golf was dying for some time because of this. The Open was dying around this time too for the same reason. People like this still exist in golf clubs around the world but they don’t have as much influence as they formerly had – thank God.

Maurice Flitcroft, with the help of his theatre loving wife, decides to beat the ban by attempting to qualify for The Open in the guise of other ‘foreign’ identities. Thus, he becomes known as The Phantom of The Open.

He turns out as a Frenchman with fake moustache. Another year he is a bottle blonde Californian. In later episodes he is a German Count and various other invented golf professional personas. This is a true story folks. Maurice is not good at getting out of bunkers and this is his undoing many times. All of us golfers can relate to that phenomena. There is a happyish ending to this movie, with Maurice being recognised by the golf world via a club in America celebrating the worst in golf. They hold an annual Maurice Flitcroft Trophy event and invite the entire Flitcroft family to attend – paying airfares and accommodation.

am elderly couple smiling for a photo shot The Phantom of The Open
Photo by Maria Lindsey Content Creator on Pexels.com

There is a valuable message for the golf culture and golf clubs everywhere via this funny film. Don’t forget that for every winner you have to have hundreds of losers to make up a tournament.

Celebrating the best golfers may be the name of the game but make sure that you stay open and respectful toward all comers. The human being is ultimately more important than the talent with sticks and ball. Every club should have a day where the worst golf is celebrated. Genuinely bad golf and not just put on for the day poor golf.

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