Twenty-five years ago, Happy Gilmore entertained movie goers and golfers alike. Adam Sandler, a Saturday Night Live alum, wrote a story about a lousy hockey player who takes up professional golf to save his grandmother’s house. The comedy of confrontation between a foul-mouthed hockey hooligan and the polite professional golfers creates a ridiculous story full of laughs that any stick or hack would enjoy. As part of the storyline, Happy Gilmore (Sandler) is able to hit prodigious drives on the course. His unique ability to drive the ball in play considering his length makes him a serious force to be reckoned with on tour.
For a quarter century, golfers have been imitating Happy’s unorthodox swing to test whether it would lead to more distance. Truly half the fun of the movie is watching Sandler bomb drives all over the course with his two-step action. From the time when John Daly burst onto golf’s stage with his humongous hits to present day Phil Mickelson tweeting about dropping bombs, the long ball has caught our attention. Unlike Happy, the longest of hitters have not been able to transfer their ball speed into FedEx Cup points until now…
Bryson DeChambeau is the 7th ranked male golfer in the world. The 2020 US Open Champion won on famed Winged Foot with a display of length and accuracy seldom seen outside the world of Adam Sandler’s imagination. The PGA Tour’s leader in distance off the tee has taken speed and consistency to another level. Bryson is literally a living movie character acting out Sandler’s script in real life. Though he doesn’t step when he hits it, DeChambeau does create quite a stir when he’s on the practice range at a tour event.
The parallels between this comedic film and Bryson’s day to day are quite unsettling. Who could have ever imagined that Happy Gilmore would eventually come to life?
This past week DeChambeau took his length off the tee and tested it against the best in the world. His week began on Tuesday, September 28th with “open qualifying.” He advanced easily through this stage and entered the official field of 64 competing to become 2021’s world’s longest driver. Through the next couple rounds of elimination, Bryson showed tremendous talent for hitting the ball at unbelievable lengths.
Even more impressive was DeChambeau’s ability to hit the scoring grid with such consistency. A player only needs to hit the landing area with one drive out of six attempts in order to count. Bryson continually hit the scoring zone with four or five drives per round. All of which were well longer than 325 yards. In fact, through the course of the week, Bryson struck nine drives over 400 yards in length!
Happy DeChambeau qualified for the final 8. The #7 ranked golfer in the world was also in the Top 8 longest drivers in the world. This is one week after he competed and helped capture the Ryder Cup. Some of you may feel this story doesn’t require superlatives, but consider golf has never been more popular than now in its history. More people are playing and watching the game. Part of the reason for the skyrocket in popularity is because people are having fun. Bryson is like a kid in a candy store playing the PGA Tour.
Last weekend nearly 40,000 people went to YouTube to watch the World Long Drive Association Finals. Forty thousand people! And if you were one of those who tuned in at all last week, you would have seen an energy filled entertainment spectacle. There was yelling and screaming coming from the broadcast booth, loud music, hysterical fans, and incredible showmanship. The competitors move in such a violent fashion one contestant injured himself to the point of collapse. While on the ground writhing in pain his fellow arena mates kept blasting away. Eventually, Kyle Berkshire defended his long drive crown, and in his championship interview he voiced support of Bryson’s bombs.
You may not be a big fan of DeChambeau’s demeanor, but he is single handedly evolving the game. His combination of speed and accuracy has never been witnessed before. Could Tiger Woods have competed in a long drive contest? Maybe, but we’ll never know that answer. Bryson put himself on that stage and not only earned the respect of the best in the world, but of many fans as well.
This is a story worth telling because it shows a unique aspect of golf that other sports don’t possess. There are a variety of ways one can enjoy this game. Let Bryson inspire you to introduce a little extra fun in your game going forward. The golf media world has tried to convince us that Bryson is a mad scientist, too technical for mass consumption. He just defied that logic in two short weeks.
From driving the first green in his singles match against Sergio last Sunday to launching it 400 yards a week later, it seems the golf world has come full circle in this instance. Bryson DeChambeau has tested many theories in golf throughout his career. Though the jury is still out on his future exploits, one thing is for certain he seems very “Happy” at the moment and that’s great for everyone in golf.
Keith Stewart is a PGA Professional and storyteller. He has built a unique marketplace perspective through two decades in the golf industry. As a professional, he has worked at many prestigious clubs on the east coast, most notably, Isleworth Country Club from 1998 to 2003, home to Tiger Woods at the time. Currently, Keith uses his talent as the host of the ProShow on ESPN radio across the New York City market. His expertise in the industry blended with a comedic pop-culture filter entertains his listeners. He's a 5-time award winning PGA Professional who brings credibility to any discussion covering the world of sports. Keith resides in Hopewell, NJ with his wife Laurie and their two kids Owen and Abbey. He's a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA and an avid golfer.