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Happy Gilmore

The American sporting comedy, Happy Gilmore, stars Adam Sandler as an accidental golfer - a failed ice hockey player who finds he has an unexpected talent for golf, thanks to his unorthodox slapshot-style swing. He joins the pro golf tour to try and win enough money to save his grandmother's house from being repossessed.

However, his fiery temperament - smashing up his golf clubs when he misses a shot - shocks the establishment and the championship organisers threaten to throw him off the tour, until the public get behind the unlikely hero and television ratings hit an all-time high.

Suddenly, the established golfers have to take the wild newcomer seriously as his quest to raise $270,000 to pay his widowed grandmother's back taxes gathers momentum and he begins chalking up wins. This leads to intense rivalry between Gilmore (played by Adam Sandler) and his arch-rival, Shooter McGavin (played by Christopher McDonald), the arrogant star of the pro golf tour.


Box office success

Their antics on and off the golf course turn Happy Gilmore into a raucous comedy, full of slapstick visual gags - making it one of the big box office hits of 1996.

Made by Universal Pictures with a budget of $12 million, it was a massive commercial success, taking $41.2 million at the box office. It also won an MTV Movie Award for Best Fight, for a scene in which Gilmore brawls with former US game show host Bob Barker, who played a cameo of himself in Happy Gilmore.

The movie was the first collaboration between Dennis Dugan and Sandler, who co-wrote the screenplay with Tim Herlihy. Its success led to many more collaborations between Sandler and Dugan, including I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry in 2007, Grown Ups in 2010 and Grown Ups 2 in 2013.


Triumph over adversity

The character of Happy Gilmore struck a chord not only with the fictional audiences of the pro golf tour in the movie, but also with real-life cinema audiences. Gilmore is the "little man" who is fighting adversity and the establishment.

He was so desperate to play ice hockey that his continual obsession had led to his school teacher girlfriend leaving him. When golf unexpectedly influences his life and creates a light at the end of the tunnel, his battle to triumph against all the odds and save his grandma's home has everyone rooting for him.

Along the way, he changes a homeless man's life, taking on Otto (Allen Covert) as his caddy for the tour. He also meets a new love interest – pro golf tour PR officer, Virginia Venit (played by Julie Bowen), is strangely drawn to him.

He takes lessons to improve his game from Chubbs Peterson (played by Carl Weathers), who is a former professional golfer whose career was cut tragically short when an alligator on the golf course bit his hand off.

In feel-good movie style, Gilmore's attempts to better himself and save the day pay dividends. He wins an all-important "winner takes all" wager game against McGavin, saves his grandma's house, gets the girl and turns his life around with the fortune he has earned in prize money.

Richest golfers in history

Joking aside, in the real world, golf is one of the top-earning sports for the best professional players and has created a more-than-comfortable living for its highest earners - including a few multi-millionaires.

American Tiger Woods, who is currently making his comeback after being beset by injuries, has earned an estimated $740 million from his prize money and sponsorship deals. The most successful golfer of all time, the 42-year-old has won 79 United States PGA Tour titles, where the average prize money is around $1 million. He has also been endorsed by many major brands such as Rolex, Nike, Tag Heuer, AT&T and EA Sports.

Former golfer Arnold Palmer, who died in 2016 at the age of 87, had amassed a fortune of $700 million, winning 62 PGA Tour titles between 1955 and 1973. He also had a golf-related business career and his achievements included negotiating a deal to build the first golf course in the People's Republic of China, founding The Golf Channel on TV and designing more than 300 golf courses across the world.

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