Teacher’s Comments: The Spinal Tap of Golf Movies
If you’ve seen the mockumentaries “This Is Spinal Tap”, “A Mighty Wind” or “Best In Show,” you have an idea of what to expect from “Handicapped: A Documentary About Bad Golf.” It’s an absolutely hilarious look at a private tournament for bad golfers, delivered in a totally deadpan, documentary style.
Leading man in the drama is Al Doermat, a porta potty millionaire, whose enthusiasm for golf is as strong as his swing is bad. Yearning for competition, yet stymied by a lack of skill, in 1994 Doermat founded the “Al’s Average Man Invitational,” a private tournament that initially had a $100,000 prize (paid for by Al).
The movie covers the 2006 tournament, where, fortified by Buick and Wilson Golf sponsorships, the prize had risen to $250,000. Thirty golfers received invitations to the tryouts, which involved a skills competition designed to weed out the bad golfers from the truly horrible (I won’t tell you how they resolved that one—it’d spoil the fun). The thirty were reduced to eleven (including Al), who then proceeded to play a nine hole elimination tournament. On each hole, the player with the highest score is eliminated, while the remainder proceed to the next tee.
Narrated by a local sports caster with utter seriousness, the documentary covers the Average Man Invitational as though it were the final day of the Masters. How the sportscaster was able to keep a straight face is beyond me. The players are utterly, hopelessly inept. Worse, though, are their bizarre personalities, and apparent indifference to (or ignorance of) their own embarrassing play.
Interestingly, among the competitors is John Barmon, who played Spaulding Smails in Caddyshack. Not surprisingly, he gets asked a few questions about appearing in that movie. Another cast member is named Tom Coyne, who claims to be an author;Tom Coyne also is the name of a relatively famous golf author, but it can’t possibly be the same guy.
There also are a couple of funny subplots. One involves the caddymaster’s futile attempts to find caddies for the competitors. The other is a running feud between two of Al’s employees who are helping at the event.
The producers have done an excellent job grounding in reality an otherwise surrealistic event. There’s little in the film to break the suspension of disbelief—other than the name of the sponsor, Al Doermat Al has never been competitive in his own bad golfers tournament, and thus truly is a doormat for throwing away hundreds of thousands of his own money. There’s even a website for Al’s Average Man Tournament. The producers maintain that it’s a real event, but I prefer to think of it as fictional.
Either way, it’s an extremely funny film, and would make a great gift for the golfer in your life.