In Defense of Shooter McGavin

Maybe Shooter McGavin deserves some sympathy?

OK, trying to run off with Happy Gilmore’s gold jacket wasn’t right, and although we never got a sequel, it’s probably safe to assume that Shooter never recovered from one of the greatest public meltdowns of all time.

But now that we are in the last month of a year that, more than any other, has preached empathy, let’s try to understand why Shooter flew off the handle.

Dan Marino did everything there was to do in football, except win a Super Bowl. Nolan Ryan did everything there was to do on the mound, except win a Cy Young Award.

In 1996, Shooter McGavin was the best golfer in the world. As Chubbs Peterson pointed out prior to the Waterbury Open [I’ll discuss that event later on], Shooter was the PGA’s leading money winner in 1995, and his wardrobe, personality and lifestyle certainly backed up his wealth.

Shooter came to Waterbury representing the best in the business, and likely didn’t think much more of the open aside from it being another chance to fatten his pockets while standing around and getting some fresh air. Little did anybody know that this afternoon would be the root of Shooter’s nervous breakdown, the apple in the Garden of Eden.

On the first hole of the tournament, a local knucklehead wearing a Boston Bruins jersey five-putted, and then proceeded to assault a spectator. He went on to make a name for himself later by acing a par-4, but that presumably unprecedented feat in golf history should never have happened, because Happy Gilmore should have been gone.  

Channeling Ron Artest would be frowned upon anywhere, but golf is the most button down sport in the world. The people that run it are sticklers. How else do you explain the fact that a player can win a tournament by shooting 25 under par, but get disqualified for, in the midst of all the excitement, forgetting to sign his or her scorecard?

Shooter McGavin himself is the epitome of golf establishment. Well dressed, well-groomed, drinking bottles of reds and whites that cost more than your rent. That’s the way golf works. You’d think beating up an innocent spectator would lead to at least a disqualification. It’d probably lead to a lawsuit, and might even lead to even jail time.

Shooter was wrong to steal Happy’s gold jacket and run off with it. He also had no business losing in the first place, especially after Happy got run over by a car the day before the final [Which, yes, Shooter arranged, but unlike Happy’s offense, we can’t prove that]. So can we blame Shooter for flying off the handle? Not entirely.

Other quarries

  • Even without being disqualified, how did Happy win the Waterbury Open? Sure, the double eagle helped, but he didn’t have any other hole in ones, which means all of his other shots required him to putt, which he didn’t know how to do until months later. Happy also hit his ball into the water on a least one occasion, and his first several tournaments on the pro tour showed that he simply wasn’t a very good golfer. Yet, he was the best in Waterbury that day.  What does that say about the competition in Connecticut?
  • It seemed everybody in golf knew about Happy’s magnificent ace. Shooter saw it live [“I know, I said I saw it!”]. Shooter’s colleagues heard about it not long after. Even the check-in lady at the AT&T Tournament in Portland expressed her admiration. The only person around golf who didn’t seem to know was Verne Lundquist, who, mindful of a hot mic, uttered “Who the hell is Happy Gilmore?” immediately after saying that name for the first time. You’d think one of the most respected national broadcasters ever would be prepared enough to know about Happy’s shot. Hell, he probably would have even heard about it on accident just by being around the course. It’s unbecoming for a broadcaster of Verne’s pedigree to have not heard.
  • How did Shooter know about Happy’s quest to buy back Grandma Gilmore’s house from the IRS, assuming real estate speculation wasn’t actually a hobby of his? The only person Happy confided in was Virginia Venit. Was Virginia, arguably the second biggest protagonist in the film, a rat in disguise? I’d hope not. But how else would Shooter have found out?

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