The Founders Film, celebrating the early history of the LPGA Tour, will make its its world premier at the Atlanta Film Festival on April 4th at 9:15pm.
Tickets are available @ http://atlantafilmfestival.com/2016/founders
The Founders Film, celebrating the early history of the LPGA Tour, will make its world premier at the Atlanta Film Festival on April 4th at 9:15pm.
Tickets are available @ http://atlantafilmfestival.com/2016/founders
The film has been accepted into two other film festivals and will make its international debut this spring. Details will be announced at a later date.
What follows is a story originally written for The Mulligan Magazine that chronicles how this film came to be (it has been edited for length). If the LPGA founders are heroes, so too are the people who gave of their time, energy, and dollars to bring this project to fruition. We will let the reader be the judge.
We received this release
LPGA Founders Coming to the Big Screen
By Rick Woelfel
In the summer of 1950, a group of 13 hardy and courageous women set out to make women’s professional golf both a viable sport and a viable occupation.
Director Carrie Schrader teamed up with fellow director Charlene ‘Charlie’ Fisk and producer Phoebe Brown to bring the LPGA’s early history to the big screen. All are experienced documentarians. Fisk, who is a golfer herself, received several awards for her work with Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Schrader is a non-golfer but soon developed a keen appreciation for the project. “I think it’s an exciting story about these women,” she says. “They really worked so hard and gave all of themselves to this and look at what they wrought.”
Work on the project began in 2012 when the production team conducted interviews at the RR Donnelly Founders Cup in Phoenix. The film was still being edited as this article was being prepared but when complete it is expected to run somewhere between 70 and 80 minutes.
It features interviews with the four living Founders, Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork, Marlene Bauer Hagge, and Louise Suggs. There are also interviews with approximately 30 other individuals who offered their own insights on the early days of the LPGA Tour and the evolution of women’s golf.
The list of interviewees includes LPGA Hall of Famers Kathy Whitworth, Nancy Lopez, and Annika Sorenstam, along with the late Rhonda Glenn, LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan, Renee Powell, Peggy Kirk Bell, and present-day LPGA standouts Karrie Webb, Stacy Lewis and Cristie Kerr.
What makes the project distinctive however, are the snippets of film that provide a rare look at the Founders in action. Simply put, there is not a lot of film from the LPGA’s early years and the filmmakers spent a considerable amount of time and energy searching for what did exist.
The material came from various sources, from archives at the United States Golf Association and at UCLA and also from a vast assortment of private sources.
“We have amassed the largest collection of female golf material that has ever been amassed in one place,” Schrader says. “We scoured the earth. We’ve hone through private collections, we’ve talked to players’ families, friends, and descendents. They have come [forward] and we’ve looked at every reel.”
In some cases, when film simply did not exist, the production team was forced to rely on recreations of significant moments; one of the Founders swinging a golf club as a little girl for instance, or of Marilynn Smith pitching for her neighborhood baseball team.
Gathering all this film, converting it to a usable format if necessary, and filming the recreations was an expensive undertaking, so much so that the fate of the endeavor was in jeopardy for a time.
Then Karrie Webb stepped up. In March of 2014, upon winning the Founders Cup for the second time, the LPGA and World Golf Hall of Famer donated $25,000 to the project.
“That really was when the film started to take root,” Schrader recalls.
Webb is credited in the film as an executive producer. So is Stacy Lewis, who has thrown her support behind the project.
Schrader says the support of two of the LPGA’s biggest names was invaluable. “It’s meant everything that they stepped up and gotten behind this,” she says, “[and said] ‘We believe in this.’
“Its very rate in this society to see people put their money where their mouths are. It’s not really about the money. Its about them saying ‘I’m going take some of my success and give back.’
“Their stepping up and honoring these women is such a big deal for golf but it’s also a big deal for sports in general that two superstars, two such amazingly talented women understand that this is a really important thing to honor and that we wouldn’t be here without them.”
Webb herself has a deep and abiding respect for the history of her sport. Some of her fondest memories as a professional golfer revolve around sitting in a locker room and hearing stories from the Founders and those who came after them about life on the LPGA Tour. Supporting a film about the Founders was a natural step.
“I just think it’s a story that needs to be told,” Webb says. “I think in the last 10 or 15 years the players on [the LPGA Tour] haven’t had the opportunity to hear the stories that I’ve heard passed on from some of the Founders. I’m a proud member of the LPGA. Our history is great and it needs to be told.”
Lewis cites the importance of the LPGA maintaining ties to its own history.
“I think it’s just really important for our tour to document our past because not a lot of people know the history of out tour,” she says. There are a lot of girls on tour now who don’t even know who the Founders are so I think when you appreciate your past and where you’ve come from. We need the history of the LPGA to come out. We need people to understand it.”
Lewis has her own memories of stories from the LPGA’s past. “I love getting around the retired players,” she says, “because of all the stories that they tell. Its so cool to hear about them traveling, and everybody loading in their cars and going to the next week’s
tournament. The stories that they tell are unbelievable.”
The necessary dollars to complete the film have come from a variety of sources, in many cases from individuals with an interest in golf history who understand the significance of the project. “It’s been a challenge,” Schrader admits, “but we’ve been fortunate that people have been drawn to this project who really want to see it live.”
Schrader says the LPGA’s support, from Commissioner Mike Whan on down, has been essential to the project. “If it weren’t for them this film would not be possible,” she says. “They did not have to get behind this and they haven’t said ‘We want creative control’ or ‘We want you to portray us in a flattering light all the time. They have just come on board and been absolutely amazing. I cannot say that enough. They are really honoring the Founders, they are really walking the talk.”
To be sure, the early years of the LPGA Tour were not a stroll through the Elysian Fields. The players joined forces to secure tournament dates, make travel less stressful and, in some cases, assure themselves they would be properly paid for their efforts. But they were also fierce competitors and conflicts were inevitable.
Schrader says it was important that that part of the LPGA story not be overlooked. “We’ve got to show the truth,” she says. “We’ve got to show the conflict we have to show the warts. That’s what makes us human. I think the way it plays out in this movie is really powerful. Their adversity and their conflicts.”
Webb points out that even today when she spends time with one of the surviving Founders it’s clear their competitive fires have not entirely been extinguished. “They were the fiercest of competitors,” she says. “You can talk to them and there’s still that sporting rivalry there but they put that aide at certain times so that they could work together to continue to grow the tour. I don’t know if we’d be capable of that sort of thing today, putting our competitiveness aside for the greater good of everybody on tour. It was very selfless.”
Webb viewed a portion of the film at the Founders Cup this past March and came away impressed with what she saw. “It sort of left you wanting more,” she said. “It was very well done.”
The film was tentatively scheduled to make its debut at one or more festivals in late summer or early fall with the hope it will be distributed to theaters after that. Schrader expects the running time to be somewhere between 80-85 minutes.
“I think it’s an incredible story what they went through,” Webb says. “I hope it reaches more audiences than just golf audiences I hope that it reaches people that don’t even follow golf. It’s a wonderful story of perseverance to get us to where we are today.”
“I think it’s going to be a great film,” Lewis says. “To see the players that cane after the Founders tell stories about the Founders; they’re unbelievable they’re hilarious.”
I think its just important for the past of the tour, I’ve been around a lot of the Founders and the players that came after them. They’ve helped my career a lot, they’ve helped me personally … I wouldn’t have the opportunity I have without those Founders so I think it’s really important that that film is made.”