Golf on the Big Screen

    Hollywood has had a love affair with the game of golf for a long-time. Many of us old-timers dust off our DVD of 1980’s “Caddyshack” at least once a year. Caddyshack leans more towards being a straight-on comedy rather than a “sports” movie, but the characters (what young man doesn’t like Lacey Underall?) and their lines have become engrained in our memories after more than 35 years of repeat viewings.

    For golfers who want a little less comedy and more on-course golf action, we have the classic Ron Shelton 1996 release “Tin Cup.” Kevin Costner portrays Texas driving range instructor Roy McAvoy. McAvoy is part playboy, part philosopher and a guy who clearly never lived up to his talent on or off the course. Fate brings Dr. Molly Griswold to his driving range, played by Rene Russo. Roy’s competitive streak sets in, seeing him squaring off against an egomaniacal, percentage playing PGA tour star David Simms, deliciously played by Don Johnson.

    McAvoy seems hell-bent on self-destruction for the majority of this film. Somehow, he makes it through the U.S. Open sectional qualifier and earns a spot in the U.S. Open – the “most democratic” of golf’s major championships. With cameos by then PGA pros Craig Stadler, Lee Janzen, Peter Jacobson and a teenage-looking Phil Mickelson, Tin Cup is refreshing in its irreverent look at professional golf and its unwillingness to adhere to Hollywood trappings. The movie holds up fairly well over the years and while Costner doesn’t have a picture perfect swing, you can find worse on tour.

    1996 also brought the release of “Happy Gilmore”. Combine a hockey player, a one-handed caddie, a cameo from Bob Barker and the genius comedic talents of Adam Sandler, and you’ll get a goofball golf comedy that many people rank up there with Caddyshack and a golf swing generations of players try to replicate on driving ranges all across the country.

    If you want more straight up drama and action, “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and “The Greatest Game Ever Played” are the rentals, streams or purchases you want to make. Bagger Vance was based on a book of the same name by Steven Pressfield. Made in 2000, Matt Damon portrays Rannulph Junuh, a native of Savannah, Georgia and a talented golfer until he returns to the states after a traumatizing tour of duty in World War I. Junuh is called on to provide a local player in a special match that was set up between Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen.

    “The Greatest Game Ever Played” tells the true story of 1913 U.S. Open Champion Frances Ouimet who stunned the professional world by winning the tournament as a 20-year old amateur, beating heavy favorites Harry Vardon and Ted Ray. Ouimet was guided that week by a kid caddie named Eddie Lowery. Ouimet finished the 72-hole tournament tied with Vardon and Ray before destroying them by 5 and 6 shots apiece in the next day 18-hole playoff. Ouimet’s win is credited with legitimizing the sport of golf in the United States, a sport that had been dominated by the British up to that point. This film was released in 2005 and stars Shia LeBeouf in the leading role.