Golf and Golfer
April 6, 2021
By Evan Rothman
The following content was first published in Golf Journal, a quarterly print and monthly digital publication exclusively for USGA Members. To be among the first to receive Golf Journal and to learn how you can help make golf more open for all, become a USGA Member today.
As sibling acts go, the Farrelly Brothers would seem to fit in neatly with fréres Coen, Marx and Smothers. But there’s some Turnesa, Wadkins and Bryan brothers in there, too. And let’s not forget the Parks – Willie and Mungo. (How has there not yet been a Farrelly character named Mungo?)
Bobby Farrelly, 62, and his older brother Peter have written and directed a full field of beloved blockbuster movie comedies, including “Dumb and Dumber,” “There’s Something About Mary,” “Kingpin,” “Shallow Hal,” “Me, Myself & Irene” and “Stuck on You,” starring everyone from Bill Murray and Ben Stiller to Jim Carrey and Jack Black… with cameos by tour pros and fellow Rhode Islanders Brad Faxon and Billy Andrade. The Farrelly Brothers love them some golf, as Bobby would put it.
While Bobby pooh-poohs his playing ability — “We have guys at the club shooting their age, while I’m more likely to shoot my weight” — the former college hockey player competed in last year’s Massachusetts Mixed Four-Ball Championship and has been as low as a 6 handicap. Teeing it up with Hollywood stars at classic LA hot spots or with dew-sweeping “Osprey Club” pals at his beloved Country Club of New Seabury on Cape Cod, Farrelly is all about having a good time on the course… even if the game can make him as crazy as one of his film’s screwball plots.
Q: And… action! How did you get started in golf?
My brother Pete and I were lucky enough to grow up in a family that loved golf. My mom [Mariann] is 87 and still plays a couple of times a week. My dad [Robert] was a doctor who loved himself some golf, no question. It was all about the camaraderie of his friends and having a good time. Pete and I played as kids, but our love of golf came a little bit later, when we got older and fully realized what a great sport it is.
Q: Do you have a favorite golf scene starring your dad?
My dad was a real character – we got a lot of our sense of humor from him. One time, after a round, we were sitting enjoying a cold beer. I said, “Pops, let me ask you something – what’s the most important thing in the world?” I was a young guy, and I actually wanted his opinion. And he said, “I would say hitting good irons.” Of course, I laughed. I said, “C’mon. It’s, like, your family, your job.” He goes, “No, way more important than that – there’s no happiness unless you can pure your irons. That’s the secret to life, OK?” We laughed… but he was kind of serious. It stuck with me that golf was such a part of his life, and he passed that on to us.
Q: How about Mom?
I was 1 under and putting for an eagle on the par-5 17th, dreaming of shooting in the 60s, when mid-backstroke Mom cautioned me about a deceptive right-to-left break. Mind you, she’s the best putter in the family, so having read the break left-to-right, I backed off, studied it some more, then figured I’d split the difference and hit it straight. The putt did exactly what I’d originally anticipated and slid away to the right. I missed the 4-foot comebacker, then made a sloppy bogey on 18 to shoot even par. For the record, that’s the one time in life Mom ever let me down. I’ve let her down a thousand times.
Q: When you moved out to Hollywood after college, what role did golf play in your career and your life?
When Pete and I first went out to LA, when we were writing and just trying to get things going, our golf life was somewhat on hiatus, because we couldn’t afford to join a club. It was only later where I’ve got friends at Bel-Air and Riviera and all that. We would sneak out some weekends to an old course, Malibu Golf Club. We loved going there. Once we were making movies, we always played on the weekends. You’d work your butt off during the week, looking forward to getting to the weekend where we could play some golf with the Bill Murrays, the Greg Kinnears, the Matt Damons.
Q: Are they like everyone else and ask why you haven’t made a golf movie yet?
People who know that we love golf always ask that. The short answer is because we haven’t been able to figure out anything that’s better than “Caddyshack,” which is an all-time comedy classic. If I came up with an idea that I thought could rival it, I’d love to do it. But I haven’t yet.
Q: When you do, please write a role for Cameron Diaz and bring her back to acting. She showed off such a nice swing in “There’s Something About Mary.”
We had written that [driving range] scene into the screenplay. Mary’s pretty much the ideal woman, almost to a laughable extent, and so of course that means she loves sports, loves to play golf, loves to drink beer, loves everything that guys like. And then Cameron says, “I don’t really play golf.” We were like, “That’s all right. We’ll figure it out.” So, she takes a couple of swings. It’s perfect! She had the most beautiful, natural, athletic swing. We had to work a lot more with Matt Dillon – and Matt’s dad is a golf coach! Go figure.
Q: Your brand of comedy seems well suited to golf, where humiliation is always lurking.
Golf is exactly like comedy. As people have said, comedy is tragedy plus time. What better example than golf? You know you can make par or better every hole, but you don’t. You don’t even come close. It’s always a struggle just not to humiliate yourself. But that’s why it’s so much fun, and funny.
Q: Yes, but you’re not just a hit-and-giggle guy, right? You were a college hockey player, and Hollywood isn’t for the faint-hearted.
I’m highly competitive, to a fault. I wish I wasn’t sometimes. If I could fix one problem in my golf game, it’s that I get frustrated. I’m always dealing with a bit of a temper out there. My brother Pete and I are both reasonable club golfers, not great golfers. But we take it very seriously in a recreational way.
Q: You and Pete have ham-and-egged it through life, on and off the course. What have you learned about being a good partner?
In the writers’ room or on the golf course, you’re not going to be at your best all the time. Sometimes you feel like you’re letting your partner down. But he’s not going to be at his best all the time, either. It’s that ding-and-dong thing, where you know everyone is trying their best, and you just have to be patient with each other and go through the ups and downs as a team.
Q: When did golf start to become a bigger part of your life?
When I moved back east, to Massachusetts, a little more than 20 years ago. I still play a bit of hockey, but I just realized that golf is the game you can play, and play well, your whole life. I love that aspect of it. At my home club, Country Club of New Seabury, which is just a jewel, we’ve got a regular group of about 40 guys who go out early in the morning and have matches going on every day. We love playing Nassaus and Wolf and all that stuff, and thankfully somebody else figures out the mathematics to it all.
Q: Are you a fan of pro golf, too? Do you watch it on television?
To watch the U.S. Open or the British Open or the Masters, I can’t think of any other sporting events I’d rather watch. It’s so exciting but at the same time peaceful. There’s something about it.
Q: “There’s Something About the Majors?” Nah.
I put everything aside to watch the majors. But I like watching golf every week on TV. It’s so pleasing to watch how the pros manage the same situations that we’re in, to see how they get out of it, how much better they are. It’s fascinating to me.