tin_cup[1] (2) I love sports romances. Love, love, love them. The thrill of the game, the athletic prowess, the conflict, the romance, and the sex all make for a heady combination. Some of my all-time favorites include See Jane Score by Rachel Gibson, It Had to be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, The Man for Me by Gemma Bruce, and Body Check by Deirdre Martin.

If you’ve been reading Sports Romances for long enough, you’ve probably noticed that most fall into the same pattern: a hunky, wealthy pro-athlete is forced to contend with a determined woman. Conflict and true love ensues. I love this pattern, I really do, but sometimes I crave something a little different – something that isn’t usually found on the shelves of Romance.

One of my favorite sports romances that fits this bill comes in movie form. Tin Cup, starring Kevin Costner and Renee Russo, is the story of a washed-up driving range pro who meets the woman of his dreams and is determined to win her heart.

So what makes Tin Cup different? Well, there’s the hero, Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy. I’m not going to sugarcoat things: Roy is a loser. He’s arrogant and obnoxious. He spends all day in beer-stained undershirts hitting golf balls and making stupid bets with his group of loser friends. He’s the proud owner of a run-down Winnebago and a barely-solvent driving range in Nowhere, West Texas – at least until he loses said driving range in a bet on a dog race with his stripper ex-girlfriend. As one of his buddies says, “The word ‘normal’ and him don’t often collide in the same sentence.” Suffice it say, Roy ain’t exactly typical Romance Hero material.

But then one day a new client shows up for golf lessons, and everything changes for Roy. Dr. Molly Griswold is nothing like the women Roy usually meets – she’s classy and smart and Roy falls instantly in love:

“From the moment I first saw you I knew I was through with bar girls, and strippers, and motorcycle chicks. When you first started talking I was smitten with you, and I’m smitten with you more every day I think about you. The fact that you know I’m full of crappola only makes you even more attractive to me.”

There are just two problems facing Roy. First, Molly is dating Roy’s archrival – a pro golfer he knows from college – and second, how does a loser like Roy go about winning a woman like Molly? After his initial attempts at wooing her don’t work, Roy decides to impress her – and kick her boyfriend’s ass – by winning the U.S. Open. The only problem is that Roy is notorious for thinking with his balls instead of his brains, and he has a serious lack of self-control when it comes to golf. Arnold Palmer he isn’t.

Getting to root for the underdog – in spite of his occasional obnoxiousness – is a big reason I love this movie. The other big reason is that the romance really works for me. I love Hero in Pursuit and Opposites Attract romances, and this fits the bill for both. The more you get to know Roy and Molly, the more you realize how well they complement each other. Roy is, to some extent, able to learn discipline and self-control, and Molly isn’t as uptight as she first seems – in fact, she’s just a little nutty.

Roy and Molly’s HEA is cemented for me in one particular scene near the end. It’s the night of Day Two of the U.S. Open, and Roy and Molly are stuffed together in the Winnebago along with several of Roy’s buddies from West Texas. While everyone else sleeps, Roy whispers to Molly, “It won’t always be like this, you know. With me surrounded by all these guys snoring, my stripper ex-girlfriend lying across from us, my caddy sleeping next to her. It won’t always be like this.” Molly smiles knowingly and whispers back, “Yes it will, Roy. It will.”

For me, Tin Cup is a winning combination of sports, romance, and quirky characters, and it satisfies that craving for something a little different, while still giving me the sports romance I know and love.

Are you a fan of sports romances? Do you find that most of them fall into a standard pattern or not? Do you ever crave something that shakes those old Romance clichés up a bit? And of course, have you ever seen Tin Cup, and what did you think of it?

–Katie Mack