Heroes #4: Happy Gilmore


31st July 2005

Steve Elkington. Geoff Ogilvy. Heath Slocum. Chances are, if you recognise these names, you enjoy discussing sand traps and mulligans, despise bogeys and are the proud owner of goofy trousers and a fat ass - yes, you are a golf fan. Perhaps the most boring sport ever devised by man, golf is in crisis right now, mainly down to a lack of characters on the course. There's Tiger Woods, who'd be interesting if he just stopped winning. Hmm, who else? Can you ever remember Ernie Els ever doing anything that made the evening news that didn't involve hitting a little white ball into a hole? The only player to have anything vaguely related to a personality in golf is John Daly, but the mountainous former alcoholic wife-beater probably wouldn't be too much of a giggle back at the clubhouse. Only one man has ever managed to make golf look exciting, and he doesn't even exist.

Happy Gilmore is a paradox - an Adam Sandler character that is funny. A lifelong hockey fan, Happy was determined to make it big in the NHL, but only one thing held him back: he sucked, with only his ridiculously powerful shot and psychotic tendencies getting him noticed. When he applies this strength to golf in a bet, he figures out his freakishly strong drive can be put to good use and can rake in the big bucks - handy, seeing as his beloved Grandma is about to be evicted unless he can raise the funds. When the raucous Happy appears on the fairway - not averse to turning the air blue or chinning sarcastic spectators - the golf scene is turned on its head. While the other players are ironing creases in their slacks, Happy is chugging beer on the course, throwing flags at cameramen and whipping the crowds into a delirious frenzy. A good shot is celebrated by dry-humping his caddy, a bad shot lamented by directing a furious rage at the nearest inanimate object, usually complemented with swearing that would make Ray Winstone sweat.

Happy could never exist in the real world, because golf is simply too dull. Can you imagine Colin Montgomerie kicking the ass of his celebrity partner on the course? Would Nick Faldo request a wayward ball to suck his white ass? Does Tiger Woods really look like he'd elbow-drop an alligator to retrieve a sliced shot? Of course not, which is why golf is about as fun to watch as road-sweeping - it's the sporting equivalent of tidying up. When Happy bursts onto the scene with a new youthful and diverse crowd, it isn't just the suits that are up in arms - tour leader Shooter McGavin isn't too pleased about his explosive new opponent. Characterized by his victory shooty finger-wink, Shooter has the chiselled good-looks of David Hasselhoff and all the charisma of a half-eaten dormouse, and isn't about to let a freak like Happy stop him from winning the gold jacket. However, an uptight prick like Shooter was always going to get his ass handed to him on a plate, both on the course and off, and Happy sweeps past his opponents to win the tour championship. Shooter was last seen being beaten into a greasy pulp by Jaws from out of Moonraker, and now thinks about his insults before saying them.

Beyond Happy's often uncontrollable temper, we see a different sort of hero emerging. See his tender relationship with his beloved Grandma for an example - a gentle soul who took Happy in when his father died in a freak puck accident. When she's moved into a rest home after her house is repossessed ("you can't take her stuff, she's old! Look at her, she's... too old!"), only then does Happy get the motivation to go and sink his balls, perhaps recognising that orderly Ben Stiller is using his elderly patrons to kick-start his quilting empire. Too proud to admit his last girlfriend left him ("she fell off a cliff and died on impact"), nonetheless he pursues the tour's PR organiser Virginia, eventually wooing her with that most romantic of dates - ice skating in the dark to the dulcet tones of Lionel Richie. When Happy is informed that he needs to bring his own caddy to the tour, he chooses the homeless guy in the parking lot to carry his clubs - something tells me Vijay Singh would find it hard to chip while his caddy soaked his skidmark-lashed underpants in the ball washer, but not Happy.

Golf needs Happy Gilmore more than Happy Gilmore needs golf - without a maverick like him on the green, perhaps the only things that would make the sport more exciting is hidden landmines, mandatory alcohol intake and random bear attacks to spice things up a bit, but you can bet your top dollar the suits won't allow it. The only solution is to force every competitor on the PGA Tour to watch Happy in action, and hope the church of Gilmore enlightens them - perhaps a road trip to the local pitch 'n' putt is in order, to see if the pros can get the better of that infernal laughing clown. I don't think anyone can deny that golf, and indeed sport in general would be more enjoyable if everyone could just find their Happy place. Ali

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