If all goes well with the limited big screen release of the film “From the Rough,” movie and sports fans across the country will soon learn the inspiring true story of Catana Starks, a former Tennessee State University golf coach and mentor to a host of student athletes.
Members of St. Ann Church in Nashville, where Starks is a parishioner, know another side of her. “She’s a very humble, fascinating lady,” said Isabel Maxwell, chair of St. Ann’s hospitality committee, on which Starks serves.
Maxwell is drumming up support for the movie within the parish and hopes that as many people as possible see it in its opening days, which could earn the film a wider release. It opens Friday, April 25, at Regal Hollywood 27 and Opry Mills 20 theaters in Nashville.
“From the Rough,” tells the true story of how Starks took an unruly group of mismatched kids from around the world and guided them to victory at the PGA National Collegiate Minority Championship. Starks was the first African-American woman ever to coach an all-men’s team at the collegiate level.
Starks herself sees the movie not so much as a “black/white thing,” but as “an inspiration for young girls to do things like coach a boys team,” she told the Tennessee Register in 2012. Racial issues are prominently addressed in the film, but it’s more a story about how wide a great teacher’s influence can reach.
When Starks was tasked with building Tennessee State’s first golf team in the 1980s, she had been the swim coach; she had played and coached fast pitch softball, but she had never played golf competitively or coached the sport. “I always liked a challenge,” she said with a laugh.
She recruited golfers from around Europe to play at the historically black university. Many were talented players, but lacked discipline. When they got to Starks, they often found a new mother figure, one who was tough, wise, and always emphasized education over sports. “I pushed them to graduate. I told them, ‘Your parents didn’t let you come here to be an athlete. You study first.’”
Starks spent 17 years as head of TSU’s golf program, and while she no longer coaches golf at the collegiate level, she does some private coaching. She currently heads TSU’s Human Performance and Sport Sciences Department.
“From the Rough” stars Taraji P. Henson, an Academy Award nominee for the film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” playing a fictionalized version of Starks. It also stars Tom Felton from the Harry Potter movie series and the late Michael Clarke Duncan, an Oscar nominee for the film “The Green Mile.” It is directed by Pierre Bagley. More information is available at www.fromtheroughmovie.com.