by director Jason Connery
When I was first sent the book of Tommy’s Honour, I was sitting in my cottage in the Borders of Scotland which, ironically, is just about two hours from St Andrews where the story takes place. I knew of this iconic Morris family, as I had played at the famous Old Course with my father on a number of occasions; I marveled at this magnificent course owned by the town, where dogs and the townsfolk had right of way over the golfers…and nobody played on Sunday.
Old Tom Morris was associated with St Andrews for over 50 years as head greenskeeper and pro beginning around 1865. I remember reading the book in one sitting. Although the backdrop is, of course, golf, it is actually about the beginning of golf in its modern form. What really struck home and got me so excited about telling this story was the often rocky, always loving, and beautifully depicted relationship between Old Tom and Young Tommy Morris. It resonated with me quite deeply.
I grew up on the golf course with my father and we talked about how I was going to make my way in the world with the dreams and aspirations I had for my life. Now, I have a teenage son of my own striving to forge his way in the world and we are having those same conversations. I realize how delicate a tightrope walk it is for a father to guide without being overbearing, how easy it is to force one’s own experiences on our son and how difficult it is to let go and watch him spread his wings and experience the highs and lows as he follows his dreams and aspirations.
For me, the story of these two men making their way in the world of golf is such a pure depiction of one generation passing on their heritage and wisdom to the next. Old Tom understands the ways of the world as they are—he knows his place and he plays it out beautifully; and then there is Young Tommy who sees the world as it could be. He questions every ideal and is not afraid to challenge the status quo for fear of offending or attempting to raise his station in life. Sound familiar?
When we were all writing away honing the script from the book, with Kevin Cook and Pamela Marin, I remember finding a quote—“Every new idea starts as a blasphemy.” We placed it above our desks to remind us of how Tommy’s questioning would be regarded by the older generation. I am not sure where the quote came from, but it again resonated so strongly.
Tommy constantly had new ideas and wasn’t afraid to live by them. He challenged his father at every turn and I love him for that. And this quest was not only in his sporting life as the first golf super-star, but also his personal life. He fell in love with and married a woman that society deemed to be too old and of much lower standing. Back then, it was a decision that could have crushed his career and made him a social pariah. History will dictate how Young Tommy is remembered, hopefully with a little help from this film. But I will always wonder, if not for his tragic demise at age 24 on Christmas Day, what could have been?