The Loop

Matthew McConaughey owes pretty much his entire career to this drunken golf story

November 18, 2020

Victor Fraile

It’s hard to remember a time when Matthew McConaughey wasn’t a walking, talking, living, breathing legend. But, according to rumor and heresay, there was such a time. 1992, to be exact, when McConaughey was just one of a bajillion prospective film students at the University of Texas. In a year’s time, he would be a cult hero thanks to his turn as Wooderson in ‘Dazed & Confused’, but it was a role he might never have gotten if it weren’t for one (very) drunken golf story.

The scene, as it’s laid out in Melissa Maerz’s new book ‘Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused’, is this: Don Phillips, Hollywood casting agent (and legendary drinker), bellies up to the bar at the Hyatt Austin. It’s the summer of ‘92. Phillips is in town filling a few final roles for a film he calls “this generation’s ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High’” and it just so happens that bartender Sam Lawrence is McConaughey’s buddy. As Phillips bloviates like only a Hollywood bigwig can, Lawrence gives his pal a call. Get your ass down here, he says, and a short while later, McConaughey sidles in, stunning girlfriend on his arm. He strikes up a conversation with Phillips and the booze flows, and eventually the conversation, as it always seems to, turns to golf.

Here’s how the guilty parties remember it.

Don Phillips: When you’re guys and you’re drinking, you talk about two things: girls and sports. Just so happens that I’m a major golfer and Matthew’s a major golfer. So we start talking about golf. And I talk loud.

What happens with guys, when you’re talking about golf, it’s like measuring the size of your dick. What you’re really doing is talking about how great you are. And each drink, you get better than the last drink, you know? You drive the ball further. You putt better.

So Matthew and I are telling these great freakin’ golf stories, and we’re just enjoying the shit out of each other, and all of a sudden a couple of hours goes by, and that poor girlfriend was sitting at the end of the bar all by herself.

Matthew said to me, “Excuse me...” and then he went down and gave her money for a taxi. He sent her home.

Matthew McConaughey: Some three or four hours later, we are mock-playing a 17-hole golf course we had both played. And we’re doing it very demonstratively and loudly. And lubricatedly.

You’ve probably already guessed what comes next: McConaughey and Phillips get kicked out of the bar. McConaughey calls the manager and says something like, “do you know WHO you just get kicked out of your bar?!” and the manager sends up a free bottle of vodka as a peace offering. Phillips is so moved by the free booze, that he gives McConaughey a script for a little film called ‘Dazed & Confused’. The rest, as they say, is history, and like all great things in history—the Roman Empire, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 2019 Masters—golf played its role, however small.