Tin Cup: A Classic Golf Movie?

Tin Cup Movie Poster

If there is one thing I have learned about golf is that it’s not over till it’s over. Unlike baseball where a team can run out of turns to beat you or a sport like basketball where you may run out of time, no lead in golf is ever truly safe until the end. Even the biggest leads can be chocked so you have to finish strong.

And when it comes to the movie “Tin Cup,” that important lesson cannot be overstated. While I enjoyed the movie overall, the ending left me very disappointed.

The film reminds me a lot of “Happy Gilmore” in that you have an “unorthodox” player going up the ranks until he has a shot at a Championship. They both tend to get angry at the drop of a hat, shoot a mean drive and are constantly surprising people with the way they handle themselves both on and off the course.

Kevin Costner plays the lead, Roy McAvoy (ironically named similar to a player who came later) who has all of this potential but tends to get in his own way with his need to prove himself and become immortalized. There are plenty of good side characters like Romeo, the comic relief (ish), and David Simms, who embodies the conceited athlete, that all help drive the point that Roy gets in his own way.

The protagonist never seems to just lay up (a term I have never actually heard used in golf) and feels like playing it safe is the wrong way to go. This thinking has made him unsuccessful and unfulfilled so as the movie continues on, you keep thinking he will learn his lesson.

It is this main point that makes the ending so disappointing for me. With a chance to win the US Open, Roy once again goes all-in and essentially chokes. He continues to shoot the ball in the water, instead of playing it safe, and completely loses any chance of winning the title. But on his last ball, he not only gets the ball over the water but also into the hole. And of course the crowd goes wild.

Except why is that the way to end it? He never learned his lesson; he lost yet again (spectacularly). I thought sooner or later he would play it safe but doesn’t and makes the whole journey seem pointless.

Sure I understand the point that he was “immortalized” because he made this incredible shot but people don’t remember great shots from golfers on the 12th attempt on a hole. The only shots I remember are the incredible, clutch winners. And while I may not be a golf aficionado, hole-in-ones are not remembered that well and in fact spectacular collapses are more memorable than some of the clutch puts (a la Phil Mickelson).

So at the end of the film I am stuck wondering what the point was. Sure it was an enjoyable and entertaining movie (and we are talking about golf) but the ending dragged it down a lot. When you get to the 18th hole, you have to finish strong or you lose. I think the only other question I have is why Kevin Costner films have such bad endings…

+ Danny Reiter

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