The documentary Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk took almost three years to make, an 80-minute project driven by interviews with several of golf’s biggest names and visually-gripping visits to some of its grandest sites —Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes, St. Andrews, Carnoustie, and Ballybunion among them.
But landing Bill Murray’s involvement as the narrator was one of the most challenging aspects of the production, which debuted in June with showings in about 100 U.S. cities. It will be available on a more widespread basis, on DVD and iTunes, starting in early September.
Best known to golf fans as bumbling greenskeeper Carl Spackler in the iconic movie Caddyshack, Murray caddied as a youth with his five brothers in Winnetka, Ill., just north of Chicago. Murray’s experience as a bagman is on display in Loopers, as he deftly helps steer the film with his almost surprisingly understated and reserved narration. He provides insight and lends some humorous touches without stepping to the forefront, much like a good caddie does on the golf course.
“Having him involved gets a lot of people’s feet in the door who are not golfers,” says Ward Clayton, a producer on the documentary and author of the book, Men on the Bag: The Caddies of Augusta National, which provided a source of inspiration for the movie. “They’re intrigued and see the film for what it is. It really draws people in when he’s involved.”
Loopers examines the history and legacy of the centuries-old caddie profession, tracing its roots to Ireland and Scotland while detailing the culture and its evolution. The documentary tells the story not only of the game’s most recognizable caddies you see on TV, but of the everyman looper—the guys you might have on the bag for a buddies’ trip to Bandon Dunes or Pebble Beach—and details their deep connection to the game.
A skilled caddie is many things: a psychologist, confidante, technical advisor, a calming influence, and more. As such, the film highlights the personal bond between some of golf’s most legendary player-caddie pairings —Tom Watson and Bruce Edwards, Ben Crenshaw and Carl Jackson, Tiger Woods and Steve Williams, Nick Faldo and Fanny Sunesson, Jordan Spieth and Michael Greller.
That unique dynamic makes Loopers far more than a “golf movie.” In many respects, it’s a buddy film built around relationships.
“They don’t just whisper advice from the shadows. They are the secret, integral part of the game,” Murray intones early in the film. “It’s finally time for the story of the golf caddie to be told.”
Given his iconic role in Caddyshack, his golf apparel line, regular appearances in events like the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and most notably his caddying background and strong recognition factor, Murray seems an ideal fit as narrator. But enlisting his involvement was far from a gimme putt.
The movie crew, including film executive Jim Packer, who provided the impetus of the project, interviewed Murray at the 2015 PGA TOUR playoff event in Illinois and voiced an interest in having him take a bigger role in the film. Murray is unquestionably a unique character in the entertainment world; he doesn’t have an agent, but instead an attorney and an unpublished 1-800 number that helps him weed through various asks and be selective about what he’s most interested in.
When Packer finally heard from Murray’s agent, he was told there was good news and bad news. The good news: Murray was interested in the project. The bad news? Also that Murray was interested.
The filmmakers anxiously waited six months before Murray was able to fit it into his schedule. Even then, it was as adventurous as you might expect.
“That was about a three-hour tug-of-war because he’s famous, even with regular roles, for taking a script and making it his own,” Clayton says. “In the 11th hour in a documentary, when you’re trying to marry the narration to what you’ve got on the screen, you really have to be as precise as possible. But we eventually got it done.”
In true Murray fashion, that wasn’t the end of the story. When they finished the narration, he asked the crew what they were doing next. Their plans were to grab a bite to eat, then head to the hotel to gather their equipment and relax for a bit before flying back to the West Coast.
Murray was gung-ho on playing tour guide instead. He piled the crew into the back of his convertible Mustang with his dog and drove them around Charleston, showing them the sites for about a half-hour. Then, without any advance warning, he pulled up to a downtown stoplight and told them he had to be somewhere in about 10 minutes.
“So, he dropped them off at the next corner and they had to Uber back to their hotel,” Clayton recalls with a laugh. “It’s a slice-of-life thing with Bill Murray.”
Murray is not the focal point in Loopers. Far from it. But he’s an important part of the experience, much like the colorful characters that Americans routinely employ as caddies when they play golf overseas.
And come September, Loopers will be available to a more widespread audience—whether they’re golfers or not.