If you have not seen the movie, “The Legend of Bagger Vance”, it may be a good idea to stop reading this column. It is one of the best movies ever produced and I do not want to give away the story to those who have not enjoyed it.
Early 1900’s – Rannulph Junnah is a confident man from Savannah who is considered the best golfer in the South. He is also dating the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in Savannah; Adele Invergordon. He is confident, happy and successful.
April 6, 1917 – The United States enters World War I. The brave men of Savannah, including Junnah, join the European war and depart to fight the Germans with a sense of pride and honor.
Late 1918 – Junnah commands a battalion of infantry soldiers who are fighting in the hellish trenches on the western front in France. He and his men have endured unspeakable hardship. But, their bravery and trust in Junnah keeps them slowly advancing toward the German border. Suddenly, the battalion is attacked by German infantry, artillery barrages, and mustard gas.
After the battle, there is one American who survives, Rannulph Junnah.
Junnah returns to Savannah a broken man with a broken heart. He blames himself for the death of his men. His desire to live is weak and he spends his time drinking heavily throughout the day, playing poker, and doing anything he can to kill the pain of his false guilt. He remains in the darkness as the Great Depression descends upon Savannah.
Meanwhile, Adele is committed to saving the city and arranges a golf match between the two best golfers in the world, Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. But, she needs a local hero to become the third participant. She approaches Junnah. His false shame and false guilt prompts him to decline.
One night, he decides to hit some balls into the marsh next to his unkept house. As he keeps hooking and slicing the balls into the woods, a man approaches him out of the dark. Bagger Vance introduces himself and tells him “Looks like you need to get your swing back”. Bagger says that Savannah needs him and offers to be his caddie. The angry and drunken Junnah scoffs at this and tells him that he cannot compete with these men and he has no desire to do so. Bagger just smiles and says again “You just need to get your swing back.”
After weeks of deliberation, Junnah decides to enter the tournament. His caddie is Bagger Vance. The first round is a disaster. Junnah is so many strokes behind that he is embarrassed and hopeless. But, with the angel-like encouragement from Bagger, Junnah begins to find his swing once again.
On the last day of the tournament, Junnah is in the woods facing a near impossible shot. He begins to sweat and his knees buckle. He tells Bagger that he cannot do this and that Bagger just does not understand.
Bagger says, “I don’t need to understand….Ain’t a soul on this entire Earth ain’t got a burden to carry he don’t understand, you ain’t alone in that….But, you been carryin’ this one long enough…Time to go on…..lay it down…”
At that moment, Junnah puts the war, his false shame and guilt, and his fear to rest. He hits a miraculous shot that even Bobby Jones was shocked to see.
I don’t want to spoil the ending of the story by telling what happens next. But, when the tournament is over, Bagger Vance just smiles and walks away.
Rannulph Junnah not only got his swing back. He got his life back.
Everyone experiences adversity. Some people, like many of my clients, are broken and hopeless. But, adversity, brokenness and hopelessness, do not constitute a life sentence. While a man (or angel) like Bagger Vance may not always appear to guide a wounded heart, it is possible to get our swing back.
Based on my experience handling criminal defense cases, watching mothers cry when their son is in jail, and seeing the miracle of a client overcome a vicious addiction, there are two undeniable truths.
First, God can and wants to heal the hearts of His children. Second, the Father of all Lies (Satan) is relentless in his plan to break the human spirit.
But, while the road is difficult and challenging, God always desires to “get our swing back” if we seek Him.