VCUarts grad tees-off in 50 states in 50 days

Photo courtesy of Teddy Leinbach
Photo courtesy of Teddy Leinbach

Four best friends from Durham, North Carolina are preparing to embark on a mission to prove playing golf is the opposite of “haughty” and “mundane” and is instead a sport worthy of an audience outside the country club, too.

“50 Over” is a documentary produced by Airball Films, an independent film company founded by Teddy Leinbach, a 2016 VCU photography and film graduate. Leinbach will set off on an intrepid journey with his brother and two friends to direct and film them playing 50 rounds of golf, in all 50 states, in just 50 days.

The syndicate is composed of brothers Teddy and Jack Leinbach, along with their friends Hayden Swanson and Colin Wilkins. The foursome will begin their journey in a 2006 Scion xB on June 1 in Maine where they will travel down the east coast before heading out west, ending in the western tip of Montana on July 18. They’re then flying out to Alaska and then Hawaii. Each day, one or two group members will play a round of nine-holes on the most accessible, cheap and public course at their disposal.  

Airball Films is aiming to alter the public’s perception of golf from “old, rich, bougie and country club” to a game for people of all socio and economic backgrounds and, above all else, “fun.” The group argues there are cheap and accessible ways to play golf and they want to explore the raw outlets that aren’t elitist or expensive.

“Whenever you see advertisements on TV it’s with lush green fairways and old people in polos, but that’s not the only way you can play golf and I think if people knew that they would play more,” Teddy said. “That’s like the NBA arena of golf. The outdoor concrete court version of golf is the course that you pay 10 bucks to play where there’s no dress code and the course may not be perfect but in that imperfection you can find a true love for the sport because there’s none of the frills of the country club atmosphere to distract you.”

Airball Films is in the planning process and raising money on an Indiegogo page. The team is budgeting for $14,366 to pay for food, gas, golf, plane tickets to Alaska and Hawaii, camera equipment and the occasional motel room when the team isn’t camping or staying with friends or family.

The “50 Over” crew is made up of four twenty-something year olds who are slightly more passionate about golf than most people their age. They find the combination of the mental and athletic aspects of the game appealing and distinct compared to other sports.

“Golf is inspiring in itself,” Jack said. “It makes you work so hard and it challenges you. It’s almost like you can never play well, it’s always pushing you. While there is extraordinary satisfaction, there is twice as much frustration and I think it pushes people to their limit. It’s almost addicting in a way.”

Teddy said the film will be deemed successful if he hears from non-golfers “50 Over” inspired them to try golf and they enjoyed it.

“In every sport there’s that very basic thing that you fall in love with,” Teddy said. “At a very basic level just hitting a ball feels really good… You can literally drive a golf ball three football fields that gives you this crazy sense of power you never get and it’s pretty incredible.”

The idea for “50 Over” flourished when the Leinbach brothers were tossing around ideas for the most enthralling feasible projects involving film and golf. Teddy said the vision to change the stereotype of golf came after the fact.

“It started off as a fun thing and then we realized we should make it universal for people and we figured we play golf, we love golf, but we don’t really embody the stereotype of golf so we should use what we’re doing to promote the game of golf,” Teddy said.

Jack said time constraints will be a challenging aspect of the trip — on any given day, the group could run into a number of problems from car troubles to the weather that could hinder their mission, but Jack is confident they will persevere.

Swanson reiterated the concern about hitting a round of golf in every state everyday but said, given Teddy’s track record of successful films, he is confident the documentary will be successful.

“(At first) I said it’s too little time, you can’t make it happen, it’s impossible,” Swanson said. “It was important it went from 18 holes to nine-holes, which is almost doable.”

In addition to showing the public golf is for everyone, Teddy said “50 Over” will be a portrait of the country. Golfers and nongolfers will be interviewed and discuss the conflicts within and among different groups.

People are cool, people are exciting, people like get to know other people doing different things,” Jack said. “I think we’re going to meet all types of awesome people in every single state and it will show there are issues that are never going to go away but at the same time there is no need to.”


Sophia Belletti
Sophia is a junior journalism major pursuing minors in history and gender, sexuality and women’s studies. She enjoys writing about current events and sports and hopes to one day be a sports reporter on the sidelines of game seven of the NBA Finals or in the press box at the World Series.
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