Sports are a hit for Dugan

Father of top Phillies pick has long had affinity for games in film

Dennis Dugan sat right next to Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley in the deciding game of the 1988 World Series when the Dodgers defeated the heavily favored Oakland A’s.

But the moment the Philadelphia Phillies took Dugan’s son, Kelly, with their first pick in the 2009 major league baseball draft, Dugan put away his Dodger blue and broke out the Phillies red.

“That’s the day I stopped being a Dodgers fan and became a Phillies fan,” Dugan says.

Dugan calls Kelly, who went to Sherman Oaks’ Notre Dame HS, a “five-tool outfielder,” meaning his son can hit for average and power, throw, field and run. (Playing at two minor-league levels in 2010 at age 19, Kelly had a .366 batting average, .455 on-base percentage and .527 slugging percentage in 113 plate appearances.)

Dugan labels himself a “no-tool player” as a youth, making him the perfect choice to direct the 2006 comedy “The Benchwarmers,” which followed three grown guys trying to erase painful childhood sports memories by competing against Little Leaguers.

“I was excited to do that movie, until I started prepping it and went, ‘Uh-oh. Add another camera crew right now,’?” Dugan remembers. “Most sports are east-west, but not baseball. It’s difficult to film. You’re part director, part accountant, making sure you got the shot and got the coverage.”

Dugan had an easier time making his first comedy with Adam Sandler, “Happy Gilmore,” with Sandler playing a failed hockey player who discovers he has a talent for golf. Dugan had an affinity for the game, having worked at the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill., as a youth, first as a caddy, then on the greenskeeping crew, though he and his buddies mostly played golf instead of cutting the grass.

Dugan’s golf experience spilled over into the movie, with Sandler, a natural athlete, adding his own ideas.

“I remember Sandler calling me on a Sunday afternoon, saying, ‘Meet me down in the lobby. I have an idea,’?” Dugan says. “We drive out to the golf course. He says, ‘I was thinking of running up and hitting the ball.’ I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ So we get a bucket of balls and he runs up and starts smacking them.”

And that’s how the Happy Gilmore run-up shot was born, an approach that a Canadian judge ruled illegal in 2009 because it violates “the standard of care owed to other players on the course.”

We’re still waiting for the ruling on Gilmore’s hockey-stick putter.

More articles from Billion-Dollar Filmmaker: Dennis DuganQuiet hitmaker | Duo defies critics | In the pipeline | Dugan scores with sports | At work with Dugan | Filmmaker recalls favorite moment

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