Golf

A box office hit that played its way into part of golfing fabric

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The trouble with golfers is that we all take ourselves too seriously. God be with the days admittedly when you’d be at the 19th hole and someone in your company would, whether you liked it or not, take you through every single shot of their round and bore you to tears in displaying an encyclopedic knowledge of their inadequacies. As if anyone cared, really.

Thing is, even the worst golfer has a moment in time when somehow the act of performing the swing and making impact with the ball results in a pure strike. “A tuning fork goes off in your heart,” is how Roy McAvoy, the downbeat would-be pro played by Kevin Costner, puts it to Dr Molly Griswald, played by Rene Russo, to describe such a feeling at an early juncture of Tin Cup, a film – directed by Ron Shelton and released in 1996 – which has proven itself timeless in its portrayal of golf’s stereotypes and yet managing to provide realism within the comedic theme.

McAvoy, aka Tin Cup, is the central character – a one-time college star content to beat balls at a rundown range in the middle of nowhere who is transformed by psychologist Griswald to aim for a shot at the US Open – but there are other impressive performances, by Don Johnson in the role of tour star David Simms, and Cheech Marin, who plays the part of caddie Romeo Posar.

Indeed, the interplay between player and caddie on the range at the (fictitious) US Open perfectly captures the relationship that exists out on tour. A caddie is not just a bagman, he is also a sounding board, something of a sports shrink too. In the particular scene, McAvoy has a case of the dreaded shanks and is hitting one ball after another straight right down a line of actual PGA Tour players (more later of how they actually got to commit to the film).

“Maybe you should hit your putter, you can’t shank that,” suggests the caddie.

“Listen, you’re the Mexican Mac O’Grady, you’ve got to figure why I’m still shanking the ball,” retorts the player.

“I’m catching the hosel? Moving my head? I’m laying it off? I’m clearing too early? I’m clearing too late? … My God, my swing feels like an unfolding lawn chair,” adds an exasperated McAvoy.

The solution as per Romeo.

“Take out your change, put it in your left hand pocket. Tie your left shoe in a double-knot. Turn your hat around backwards. Now, take this tee and stick it in your … behind your left ear.”

“I look like a fool,” says McAvoy, then hitting a perfect shot. “How did I do that?”

“Because you’re not thinking about shanks. You’re not thinking about the doctor lady. You’re not thinking. Period. You’re looking like a fool and you’re hitting the ball pure and simple,” says the caddie, having provided a lesson in golfing psychology that applies to hacker and pro alike.

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