The true story that inspired Adam Sandler’s ‘Happy Gilmore’
(Credit: Netflix)

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The true story that inspired Adam Sandler’s ‘Happy Gilmore’

Released in 1996, Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore is finally getting a sequel, as the star revealed recently. This has once again bolstered the sports comedy’s traction on streaming. It is currently nestled at the tenth spot on Netflix’s top ten films chart in the US. But did you know that this smash hit of Sandler’s was actually inspired by an actual person and very true events?

Interestingly, this film inspired the name of Sandler’s future production house, Happy Madison Productions, along with another of his smash hits, Billy Madison. However, amidst the film’s uproarious success, not everyone was pleased with its antics.

Sandler’s and Happy Gilmore’s comedic bones were never meant to appease everyone. Roger Ebert critiqued the film harshly, highlighting Sandler’s character’s abrasive nature and penchant for violence, even in a PG-13 production. “He seems angry even when he’s not supposed to be,” Ebert wrote about Happy’s character in his review, where he awarded the film one and a half stars out of four.

In a 1994 interview, Sandler said he enjoys silly characters who happen to be the proverbial idiots. He had also confessed his love for the movie Caddyshack, another golf comedy that mocked elitist country clubs. Over the years, many have expressed the opinion that despite being silly, Caddyshack is a comedy masterpiece compared to Happy Gilmore.

Directed by Dennis Dugan and penned by Sandler and his writing partner Tim Herlihy, Happy Gilmore spins the tale of an unsuccessful ice hockey player, portrayed by Sandler himself, who stumbles upon an unexpected talent for golf. Faced with the imminent foreclosure of his grandmother’s home, Happy tries to save it by competing in a high-stakes golf tournament. Alongside Adam Sandler, the film features an ensemble cast that includes Christopher McDonald, Julie Bowen, and Carl Weathers.

The true story that inspired Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore:

The genesis of Happy Gilmore traces back to Sandler’s childhood friend, Kyle McDonough, who was an ice hockey player with a fiery temperament. Sandler and McDonough grew up together in Manchester, New Hampshire, and they often played golf together. Sandler believed McDonough was better at golf than him due to of his ice hockey skills. All of this is what partially inspired the story of the film.

However, McDonough didn’t switch from hockey to golf as Happy Gilmore does in the movie. He went on to have a successful career in hockey, but he and Sandler stayed friends. McDonough also had a cameo in Grown Ups 2, which eventually didn’t make it into the final cut. The two continue to be friends, and speculations have it that he might end up making a cameo in the Happy Gilmore sequel.

McDonough’s legacy extends beyond the silver screen. Inducted into the Vermont Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999 and the New Hampshire Legends of Hockey in 2003, McDonough’s impact transcends sports. He became a history teacher and hockey coach in Sandler’s hometown after retiring in 2002.

You can stream Happy Gilmore on Netflix and check out the vintage trailer right here: