For anyone who has ever played a round of golf, there is nothing quite like stepping up to the first tee in such lush, pastoral surroundings. As you line up to take your first swing, the birds are chirping a welcoming song as a quiet calm and peacefulness comes over you. Sensing everything is right in the world, you draw back the club and with a sense of power and determination, swing through the ball.
You expect to see the ball soaring majestically through blue skies to its intended landing spot in the middle of an all-too green fairway. Instead, you hear your golfing partner audibly wince by saying, “Ouch.”
After ricocheting off a couple of foreboding pine trees, your dimpled ball has come to rest beneath a pile of pine needles about 10 yards out of play. Rather than playing by the rules and taking a penalty stroke, you find yourself blurting, “Mulligan! I will take a mulligan!”
A second chance. In the game of golf, a mulligan is another opportunity to make things right. In this case, a do-over to insure that our golf score goes lower not higher. To make things better rather than worse.
How many times in the history of mankind have we heard that one? That moment when a person commits a sin, feels guilt and shame because of it, and then makes a promise to God that it is the last time it will ever happen. We plead with God for that second chance … a mulligan.
In the new Fathom movie event, “The Mulligan”, screening in select movie theaters April 18th and 19th, Paul McAllister (Eric Close) is a success at everything he does … except his personal life. A titan of corporate business, McAllister is separated from his wife and estranged from his son. While his professional life is a case study of success and powerful influence, his personal life is in shambles. He could use a mulligan … and he finds it from an unlikely source on the golf course.
I recently sat down with Close to discuss why there is always hope for a second chance, the experience of working with Hollywood legend Pat Boone, and the amazing life lessons that can be learned by taking a mulligan.
For the sake of our conversation, and this is mainly for people who don’t know a whole lot about golf, how would you define mulligan?
What’s interesting about the mulligan is when you play golf the way it’s supposed to be played, you have to play by the rules. And just like life, golf and life resemble each other. They’re very parallel. For example, you may hit a perfect shot right down the middle of the fairway, which happened to me recently. I was playing golf with some friends, and I hit some really fantastic shots. And I ended up in these divots that a person hadn’t repaired. So, I ended up having a bad line. It could be like something in life where you’re driving down the road, doing the right thing, driving the speed limit, and someone runs a stop light or a stop sign and hits you.
You didn’t do anything particularly wrong. Life happens that way sometimes. The thing about the mulligan is when you’re out playing a friendly game of golf with your buddies, and you hit a bad shot, it’s a do over. Your friends may extend you some grace and say, ‘Hey, it’s the first shot of the day, try again. We won’t count that shot.’ It’s an example of grace, forgiveness, and mercy. It doesn’t play into the (official) rules of golf though.
It’s nice when someone extends you a little grace that says, take a shot over (without penalty). That message is in this movie. It’s the same as the mulligans we get from God in life. A lot of times people feel that they’ve made a mess of their life and don’t think they could ever get a second chance. And the message of this movie is, no, that’s not how God works. He’s in the forgiveness business, extending grace, forgiveness, and mercy an endless amount of times. He gives us that in life.
What attracted you to the role of Paul McAllister? I was going to ask if you see any similarities in yourself that are related to the role. However, having seen the movie, I’m hesitant to ask that question because he wasn’t exactly living his best life, so to speak.
When I read the script, I loved the story. I loved the message of the movie. Obviously, I really love the game of golf. It’s been a very important part of my life for many, many years, and has opened so many doors for new relationships, great friends that have come through the game of golf, and amazing experiences that have taken me all over the world because of the game. On the level, what I liked about Paul is his journey in the film. In the movie, you see he’s clearly on the wrong path. He is lost in certain aspects of his life. And we all go through that in different ways.
Some people’s paths are more destructive than others. If you look at Paul’s life, the real thorn in his side, or his fault, if you will, is his pride. He thinks in his mind, he’s doing the right thing. He even says to his son at one point in the movie, ‘You don’t know how much I’ve sacrificed to provide for our family.’ What he doesn’t realize is that the so-called sacrifice he’s making, has caused his family to fall apart because he is a workaholic. I’ve seen this happen so often where people will put hundreds of hours into their jobs and their company or whatever that is. And yet they can’t take an hour out of their day to go to their kids’ ball game or take their wife on a date. Our priorities get out of whack. And for Paul, I saw a man who clearly hadn’t put God first in his life. And so he was putting these other earthly things in his life that he thought would bring him purpose and fulfillment. And clearly, he got to a point where he realized that that wasn’t the case. He was starting to see the wake of destruction that was happening behind it.
What excites you most about being part of this movie? There are probably so many things, but is there any one thing you could kind of pinpoint to say this excites me about this film?
What excites me about The Mulligan is the message that there are second chances, and as long as you’re on God’s green earth and you’re breathing air, you have a chance to turn things around and point the ship in the right direction. Get that mulligan! I know so many people who will relate with the message of this film … the situation in this film with estrangement, from a son or a daughter, or a spouse where they suddenly one day say, ‘Wow, how did I get here? This is not where I want to be. I thought I would be here and now I’m not here. I thought my relationships would be here, but they’re over there.’
There is the message in this film that says, ‘Hey, things can be made, right. You can have a second chance. You can find forgiveness and redemption.’ It’s a universal message to everybody. Everybody looks for it at some point in their life. We all make mistakes and think, oh, I wish I could do that over now. That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for our actions. Clearly there are. We have to deal with those consequences. I know people who’ve made some really bad choices and when they made the right decision to go a different direction, were changed and redeemed. Then God was able to use them in really amazing ways.
What was the experience of working with the “Old Pro”, Hollywood legend Pat Boone?
First of all, let me say I love Pat. We have become dear friends and real quickly. From the minute we met on set, we immediately had a connection. He’s so easy to like. He’s very open, engaging and welcoming. And Pat is very transparent. What you see is what you get. I didn’t find any phoniness about him. He’s a very genuine person and right off the bat, we discovered that we shared the same faith in Jesus Christ. And so, that was awesome because it started there and then everything else just kind of came into place. He has a great work ethic. Here’s a guy, who at the time we shot the movie, was just about to turn 87.
He is not a young man but was running circles around me. His mind is sharp. He was intentional about learning his dialogue and rehearsing. He’s got a lot of stories and I love telling stories. So, I hope if I make it to his age, that I’ll have as many stories as he has. He was a joy to work with. We got to play golf when we weren’t working. And Lord willing, if I ever got a chance to work with him again, I’d love that.
What are some valuable life lessons that people can learn from this film?
Well, for one, forgiveness is available. I keep hammering this home, that there is grace and mercy available to every one of us and that we have an opportunity for forgiveness, and to make things right, to right the ship, and go a different direction. There’s also the message of honesty and integrity. The thing I love about the game of golf over any other sport is that there is such a high value placed on plain honesty.
You look at other sports, everybody’s trying to bend the rules as much as they can. When the guy goes up for a shot and, and gets fouled, the guy goes, ‘I didn’t foul,’ even though he clearly fouled the other player. Or in tennis, the ball hits the line and the guy goes, ‘No, that ball was out. That ball was out,” even though they knew it was on the line. Everybody’s trying to gain an advantage. And then you go to the game of golf and you’re trying to beat your opponent. It’s you and your opponent, neck and neck. You hit your ball in the woods and you go in the woods and no one else is watching you. And you do something that goes against the rules of golf. Your ball moves, which is not supposed to happen. And it’s on you to come out and tell your playing partner, or the officials. I made a mistake in there and the ball moved. I need to give myself a one stroke penalty, which could also cost me a tournament. So, this message in the film of there being value in doing the right thing, even at your own expense sometimes is of critical importance.
After people have seen The Mulligan, from your perspective, what would you like to see folks take away from the viewing experience? What’s your greatest hope for the film?
One of my greatest hopes is that people tell their family and friends and other people about it because especially in the independent world for a film like this, you need people’s word of mouth. It makes a difference. When I see a movie that I really enjoy, I’ll go out of my way to tell people that if you haven’t gone to see this movie, or picked up this movie on DVD, I really recommend you see it. And I don’t do that all the time. When Pat Boone and I were in Nashville recently, we screened this movie at Opryland. And when I saw people crying and laughing after the movie, and coming up to me with tears in their eyes and saying, “Thank you so much for that movie.” That’s what my hope is. That people will be moved by the story and will want to tell others about it. And even more importantly, if the movie gives them a hope that things can improve, if there’s a situation in their life, if it’s a relationship that’s broken in their own life, they’re struggling, I want them to realize there is a second chance. I have an opportunity to get a do over, a mulligan, then the movie’s been successful.
Watch a Trailer for The Mulligan: