Before They Were Famous: Julie Bowen in 'Happy Gilmore'

[caption id="attachment_63576" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Universal"]Julie Bowen in Happy Gilmore[/caption]

It's easy to forget that long before Julie Bowen became a successful television actress (in "Ed," "Boston Legal" and now "Modern Family"), the "Horrible Bosses" co-star was wrangling Adam Sandler on the golf course in one of the most beloved comedies of the '90s.

After graduating from Brown University, the Baltimore native cut her acting teeth on a few forgettable TV series ("Class of '96," anyone?). At the age of 26, however, Bowen briefly left the small-screen parts behind for her first major film break in "Happy Gilmore."

As PGA Tour public relations director Virginia Venit, Bowen's character is assigned to help Happy Madison (Sandler) get through his first golf tour smoothly so that he can win the grand prize and save his grandmother's home from foreclosure. Over the course of the movie, Virginia Venit becomes one of Happy's strongest supporters (see the first clip below), has a calming effect on Happy's overaggressive personality -- even with the arrogant Shooter McGavin (Christopher McDonald) doing his best to antagonize Happy at every hole (second clip) -- and eventually becomes Gilmore's "unlikely" (but very likely) love interest.

Even in this early-career part, it's easy to see that Bowen shines playing the straight woman opposite childish men-children like Happy Madison. Fifteen years later, that same type of disciplinarian role -- as Claire Dunphy opposite her hilariously juvenile husband Phil on "Modern Family" -- would earn Bowen an Emmy nomination, and even better, some actual punchlines.

Happy Goes Ballistic

Happy Gilmore at