This interview first appeared in the April issue of GOLF Magazine.
Well, I have to say there’s certainly no mistaking your voice. I feel like I’m about to talk to God about golf.
Thank you so much. But “God”… that’s a bit over the top.
When did you first pick up the game?
When I was about 65. So maybe 15 years ago or so. I guess it came to me fairly quickly. But I mean, how quickly does it really come to anybody? I love it, but I don’t keep track of my handicap or anything. I always tell people that my handicap is between my ears.
You caddied as a teenager in Mississippi, right?
Yes, once or twice. It was just to make money, I didn’t like it. I think I got maybe a dollar or two a round. The one lesson I took from watching other people play was to control myself. You know, don’t be throwing clubs around.
Where’s your home course?
I play in what looks like a cow pasture. It’s a little closed nine-hole course in Sumner, Mississippi, called The Bayou Bend Country Club.
Do you ever play on location when you’re filming movies to decompress?
Yeah, and I’ve played just about all over the world. I normally take my clubs with me if I’m going to be gone for a while. But it’s not to decompress. I don’t really need to decompress from acting.
Your most memorable round?
I played a couple of holes with Vijay Singh at Sawgrass in Florida. And you know the 17th hole there? The one with the green on that little island? I parred it in front of him. I can’t tell you how good that felt. I’m bragging, right?
You’re allowed. Have you ever hit a shot that felt as sweet as winning the Oscar for Million Dollar Baby?
Oh yeah, absolutely! I think any golf shot I hit and it lands on the green, if it’s over a hundred yards away, feels just as good.
I heard that you had a custom wooden cabinet built just to house your Oscar…
Well, it holds all of the awards I’ve won. It’s a big cabinet.
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
Well, I can’t bypass Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales. But the old movies with Humphrey Bogart and Gary Cooper — High Noon may be one of the best ever made.
Who would you pick to fill out your ideal celebrity foursome?
You were originally supposed to costar with Robert Redford in The Legend of Bagger Vance before they decided to go younger with Matt Damon and Will Smith. Sounds like one of the great what-if movies we missed out on…
Yes, that’s true. We got a couple of months into talking about how we’d do it. And then it fell apart. I would’ve loved to have done that movie. Loved. I think later we realized that maybe we missed a chance there.
As you get older, what’s easier and what’s harder about the game?
I’m thinking, I’m thinking. I guess I have a lot more patience. I’m still learning new tricks, how to address the ball, how to make contact with the ball.
Is it in any way like acting?
Not at all? There isn’t one thing they have in common?
Not one. Acting, to me, is about as easy as falling off a log. Golf really takes serious concentration. Acting is what I was born to do. Some people, you put a pencil in their hand, they’re born to write. Some you put a paintbrush in their hand, they’re born to be an artist. Acting was that for me.
Last question: Is there any chance that when Andy and Red reunited in Mexico after leaving Shawshank that they played a round south of the border?
Nope. There’s not much chance of that because Andy doesn’t play golf.
What makes you so sure?
He just doesn’t.
Yeah, but why?
Hell, I don’t know.