In the Rough: Golfballs! (1999)

Dave chats to Florida native Steve Procko about his sole venture into the movie business.

Caddyshack (1980) has a lot to answer for in the golf-com stakes.

Harold Ramis’ riotous romp took home a sackload of coin at the box office and was often imitated, but never equalled. Adam Sandler hit the green with Happy Gilmore (1996). Bunker-bound were the likes of The Foursome (2006) and Who’s Your Caddy? (2007), and forfeiting the back nine was the humourless Hole in One (2010), which tried to make a star out of Universal’s direct-to-video golden boy, Steve Talley. GOLFBALLS! (1999), meanwhile, sits in the long grass. It’s probably destined for a bogey – but for a par five it can certainly be regarded as a good effort for an amateur linksman.

Produced by PAC Films – a short-lived offshoot of Steve Procko Productions LLC., a commercial and industrial film company ran by the eponymous Florida entrepreneur – Golfballs! was certainly a step in an unexpected direction. It came during a period of high demand in the video market – and as Procko himself explains, it was a challenge that appeared to be achievable:

“We’re primarily a television commercial production house and we’re still in existence today! In the 1990s we did a lot of regional and national television spots for advertising agencies all over the country. We produced commercials for clients like Proctor & Gamble, Pampers, Jif Peanut Butter, Toyota, Office Depot, etc...”

“Back then, Blockbuster Video’s corporate offices were in Fort Lauderdale, which was near our studio. A senior executive left the company with the aim to partner with a local production firm to  make low-budget movies that could be taken direct-to-video. With Blockbuster, we had a high probability of selling close to thirty-thousand units to them alone. Our partner also had a handful of investors lined up to front the money for production. So we all teamed up with a sound business model going into things. The objective was to create multiple low-budget features this way, fitting the cost into the perceived unit sales, providing needed content for the DTV retailers.”

Granted, Procko’s dip into home entertainment was intended for commerce rather than art – but a visit to the shingles of, say, Avi Lerner, Andrew Stevens and Alan Bursteen in the same time period would have revealed similar insights in regards to getting a film made.

“Golfballs! was written by Bob Small – but not the same Bob Small who co-created MTV Unplugged like IMDb states,” remembers Procko. “He was a good friend of mine and he had several scripts that we introduced to our team. Golfballs! was the one we settled on first. You have to remember that South Florida is where Porky’s (1981) and Caddyshack were shot so we presented Golfballs! as a ‘Porky’s meets Caddyshack’ type of movie.”

Josh (Philip Stillman) and his granddaughter, Liberty (Christy Tummond), are the owners of the rundown Pennytree Golf Club. Patronised solely by its few remaining elderly members, it’s a poor relation to its nearest competitor, the high-end Bentwood Country Club, with its $20,000 annual membership and cravat-wearing head honcho, Simon Roosevelt (Dan Barkley). Roosevelt is desperate for Josh to sell up, lowballing him with an offer of half-a-million so he can bulldoze the land in order to build a slew of condos. However, Liberty has other ideas, and hatches a scheme that could not only boost business, but muzzle their adversary too…

Relying heavily on a double-D dose of pneumatic boobed bedlam, Golfballs! seems quite happy to wallow in the lowbrow with its hijinks. Indeed, with the camera drawn towards its cosmetically enhanced female ensemble, Procko’s film seems intent on giving the Skinemax crowd the kind of scantily clad comedy content they’d been craving since the first wave of ’90s swimsuit spectaculars and bikini epics became passé [1]. Knowingly cheap and tawdry, Golfballs! still somehow manages to retain a passable hit rate with its joke count. The locally-sourced cast portray their one-dimensional characters with gusto, ensuring that, irrespective of the film’s flaws, there are enough sniggers to hold your attention.

Despite the slim resources at his disposal, Procko was ambitious enough to futureproof his endeavour – even if a quarter of a century later, demand for a Golfballs! Blu-ray is yet to receive much traction, although. Nevertheless, the hands-on filmmaker seems satisfied when looking back at his brief dalliance with the motion picture business.

“I was involved in every aspect of production. I wasn’t just the producer and director; I also edited the film, which was back in the early days of non-linear editing. We shot on Super 16mm with a 16:9 aspect ratio and cut the movie in Avid Media Composer. The reason for this was to allow a re-release to high definition in the future (which never happened).”

“We determined the budget for Golfballs! and then we had to modify the existing script to fit the number of shooting days we could afford, which was a minuscule thirteen. To manage this, we had to find the locations that would work to the budget. There ended up being around seven different golf courses used for this, all located in South Florida. Then we had to rewrite parts of the script to merge with what the locations had to offer.”

“Say what you want about the nature of Golfballs!, but it was a blast to shoot. Good or bad, I am proud of the production value we all managed to accomplish in such a short shooting schedule. Sadly, after the film came out, the formula for direct-to-video movies quickly changed, meaning that we would have had to produce similar films for half the budget we had for this one, so there was never an opportunity to greenlight the other low-budget films we had planned.” [2]

[1] Think Bikini Island (1991), Bikini Summer (1991), Bikini Beach Race (1992), Bikini Car Wash (1992), Bikini Squad (1993), and Bikini Drive-In (1995) et al.
[2] In August 1999, The Miami Herald reported that Procko’s company were hoping to move into production with three films: ‘Nip n ’Tuck’, ‘Everything’s Fine’ (both of which were scripted by Small) and ‘The Sand Witch’. “The latter was adapted from a children’s book,” adds Procko. “It had Muppet-like characters in it and a Florida beach theme with comedy elements that would have been great. We were hoping to get Carol Kane to play the title role, but it never got to the point where we were ready to negotiate a deal with her people.”

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