In the US Open local qualifying in Indianapolis last week, when Bloomington (Ind.) High School South sophomore Happy Gilmore stepped onto the first tee, he received a familiar reaction from his playing partners: a double take.
Seriously… Happy Gilmore!?
It was the equivalent of a novice racing driver extending his hand and saying, “Pleasure to meet ya — I’m Ricky Bobby,” or a new baseball player jogging out to the diamond and introducing himself as Roy Hobbs. Where’s the hidden camera, right?
Adam Sandler’s character in the 1996 comedy, Happy Gilmore, is a fictional hockey player who becomes a professional golfer thanks to his cartoonishly monstrous tee shots. The film concludes with Gilmore (spoiler alert!) defeating his smarmy nemesis, Shooter McGavin, in a tight Tour Championship. Obviously, most of this audience is familiar with Sandler’s character. However, calling Happy Gilmore iconic would be an understatement, and it is undeniably one of the most beloved shows of all time.
According to the real-life Happy, “Yeah, they gave me a little look,” he stated recently when he spoke by phone. H e was talking about his teammates at the qualifier. “I had to kind of shake my head and say, ‘It’s crazy but it’s true.’”
Landon James Gilmore appears on his birth certificate, not Happy. He didn’t plan on it; the name just came to him. The Pepsi Little People’s, a junior event in Quincy, Illinois, had a long-drive contest that he won when he was 9. The Gilmore family has a history of producing powerful hitters. If you don’t call him Happy, you’re doing a crime. So, a few people did, and then a few more people did, and then a few more people did. It seemed inevitable that the moniker would stick.
Happy’s talent didn’t hurt, as he went on to compete in high-level junior tournaments across the United States. As a weekend hacker, it would be disheartening to bear the name of the organization. He won the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour’s Player of the Year award in 2020. He finished 8th at the Indiana high school state championship last year. In the U.S. Open qualifying last week, he hoped to advance to sectionals and, who knows, perhaps even a dream start at the U.S. Open, at The County Club, outside Boston, next month. (Hey, if Danny Noonan can caddie at the Open…)
In the second round, Happy recovered from a poor start to shoot a one-over-par 73. He wasn’t out of the woods yet, but he was close. O.B. and a creek are both in play on the 7th hole at Old Oakland, which is a grueling par-4 that’s difficult to approach. A 3-iron from the tee which is really something Happy’s namesake would not do.
When his ball sailed out of bounds, his cautious approach had failed. Reloaded with driver and had a blast. O.B. once more. A branch near the tee box clipped his third try, which ended up in a creek. Four more shots were required for Happy to complete the hole-in-one. There were a lot of laughs when his caddie used the good old Happy Gilmore line, “Well, better luck next year!” to break the gloom of his card’s 10 at the 7th hole.
Naturally, Happy knows the movie inside and out. This is probably something I’ve seen a thousand times, he remarked. Nearly the whole thing is memorized in my head.
When you begin a sentence, Happy can finish it off.
“Just tap it in. Just tap it in. Give it a little…
…tappy. “Tap, tap, taparoo,”
“You could trouble me for a…
…warm glass of shut the hell up!”
“The price is…
And, yes, he has perfected Happy’s signature hockey-style tee shot. “It never fails,” he said of players he meets on the junior circuit. “Every tournament, every round, someone’s, like, can you do the Happy Gilmore?”
Seeing Happy on a field list or scoreboard is no longer a big deal because his name is so well-known in the area. That is not the case when he travels a long distance away. According to him, “A lot of people will second guess [the name] or look at me funny,” “Sometimes people won’t believe it.” In one tournament, Happy was mistaken for a prankster and unregistered. “We had to call and tell them I’m a legitimate person,” he said.
Could being named after one of the game’s most beloved characters help your public relations efforts?
Happy nodded and added, “Oh, yeah,” concluding his statement. “I don’t think shooting 80 in a U.S. Open qualifier would have gotten me as much publicity.”
The news was picked up by a few American golf websites. Bunkered, in the United Kingdom, did the same. In an article titled “Some Kid Named Happy Gilmore (No, Seriously) Played In A Local US Open Qualifier And Shot An 80.” Barstool Sports even got in on the action. The best part of the media blitz, according to Happy, was a shoutout from the official Twitter account of Shooter McGavin. “If anyone see’s this kid,” Shooter wrote, “tell him I’d love to meet him tonight on the 9th green at 9.”
Original article posted on Golf