How this A-List actor caught the golf bug after being cast in a beloved golf movie

Longtime ESPN sportscaster Sean McDonough has met his share of A-Listers over the course of his career, but there’s one particularly famous actor that he’s counted as a very close friend for over three decades: Matt Damon, perhaps better known to golf fans as Rannulph Junuh, the protagonist of the beloved golf movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance.

On this week’s episode of Subpar, McDonough told hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz that despite the fact that Damon’s father was an avid player, Damon had no interest in golf himself — that is, until he was cast as Junuh in Bagger Vance in the late ’90s.

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“They sent him — which might have been a mistake — some place to basically get instruction for five or six weeks,” McDonough said. “And he was a robot. If you watch him in the movie, Joel Gretsch, who played Bobby Jones, who I met through Matt, because they got to know each other obviously making the movie, Joel can — that’s Joel, he can really play. I mean, he’s got a beautiful, natural golf swing. He grew up playing. But Matt’s a robot. And he’s still a terrible golfer. He doesn’t play a lot. He’s a good family man. He’d rather spend time with his kids, which most golfers out there say, ‘Really?’

“He called me from wherever he was, Savannah or Hilton Head, I can’t remember — somewhere down there in the Southeast,” McDonough continued. “They got him with a coach and he got a lot of instruction. And he called me and said, ‘I’m a five-day golfer, and I’m addicted. Why didn’t you make me play this sport?’ ‘I’ve been trying to tell you for years! You should play golf, you’d like it.’ He’s a very good athlete. It’s just his swing was a little robotic in that movie I think.”

For more from McDonough, including what goes into making golf broadcasts happen, and how he would rate fellow broadcasters’ games, check out the full interview below.

Jessica Marksbury

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on