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‘From the Rough’: As golf coach, Taraji P. Henson hits sweet spot

Taraji P. Hens'From Rough.' | FREESTYLE RELEASING

Taraji P. Henson in "From the Rough." | FREESTYLE RELEASING

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Catana Starks Taraji P. Henson

Roger Michael Clarke Duncan

Edward Tom Felton

Kendrick Henry Simmons

Freestyle Releasing presents a film written and directed by Pierre Bagley. Running time: 97 minutes. Rated PG (for language and thematic elements). Opens Friday at local theaters.

Updated: May 26, 2014 6:13AM

‘From the Rough” is based on the story of Catana Starks, the first African-American woman to coach a collegiate Division 1 men’s golf team. A former swim coach at Tennessee State University, a historically black college, she built the school’s golf team into a winning enterprise.

Starks (Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson from “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) overcame personal obstacles — her race and gender — and in this likable film faces many more, beginning with an uncooperative athletic director (Henry Simmons) who won’t hand over money for scholarships or equipment.

Golf is not a sport popular among young black men, and Starks is unable to find players for her fledgling program. Instead, she goes international. Her motley crew of players includes Edward (Tom Felton), a charming Brit with a contempt for authority; Bassam (Ben Youcef), an angry French-Algerian; Cameron (Paul Hodge), an Australian from a single-family home who is using golf as a means to a better life; Ji-Kyung (Justin Chon), a South Korean with a penchant for low-slung pants and hip-hop, and Craig (Robert Bailey Jr.), the only African-American on the team, who fell in love with the sport working as a caddy.

“From the Rough” pushes many inspirational points about overcoming the obstacles life throws in your path. Yes, it’s another sports movie about underdogs reaching for the stars and winning, but what makes it unique is Starks’ interesting story and the fact that it’s about golf. However, the filmmakers only partially succeed in making the sport exciting.

Henson nicely captures Starks’ determination but also her doubts and personal demons. Her players are each a bit of a stereotype, but the young actors manage to unify this band of misfits into a cohesive team. The late Chicago native Michael Clarke Duncan has a small role as a school janitor who is Starks’ defender and offers her encouragement to keep on fighting to win on the green and in life.

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