Happy Gilmore — yes that’s his name — competing for Indiana high school boys golf state title

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Yes, he understands the reaction. Happy Gilmore? It has to be a misprint. Maybe a joke.

Happy Gilmore? No way.

“Sometimes, when I first introduce myself, they will look at me funny,” said Gilmore, a star golfer Bloomington South (Indiana) high school. “But if my golf bag is there and has my name on it, that will kind of help a little bit. But it never fails. At some point they will ask me, ‘Is that your real name?’ or ‘How did you get that name?’ Something along those lines.”

His given name is Landon. But Happy, a 16-year-old sophomore, started to go by “Happy” as a nickname when he was about 6 and started playing in golf tournaments — a golfer with the last name Gilmore is too easy, right?

Bloomington South’s Happy Gilmore hits a shot during the IHSAA boys’ golf sectional at Cascades Golf Course on Monday, June 6, 2022. (Photo by Bobby Goddin/Herald-Times)

“My mom said it was before this, but I really remember it when I was like 9 years old,” he said. “Then when I was like 13, I started going by ‘Happy’ all the time.”

Gilmore, unlike Adam Sandler’s character in the 1996 movie “Happy Gilmore”, is not a hockey player/turned golfer. “I can’t skate,” he said. But he can golf. In fact, Gilmore tied for eighth in the state last year as a freshman. His Bloomington South team, which finished fourth at the Indiana state championship last year, will be one of the teams to watch when the two-day IHSAA state meet begins Tuesday at Prairie View Golf Club in Carmel, Indiana.

“The last third of our season I’ve been playing very well,” said Gilmore, who tied for second in the regional with an even-par 72. “It’s definitely about the best I’ve felt on a golf course, probably in my life.”

Gilmore earned some national publicity after he shot an 80 in a U.S. Open qualifier at Old Oakland Golf Club. The “Shooter McGavin” Twitter account (named after Christopher McDonald’s villainous character in the movie), has also taken note. “If anyone sees this kid, tell him I’d love to meet him tonight on the 9th green at 9” he tweeted to his 437,000-plus followers last month.

Gilmore can imitate Sandler’s tee shots in the movie, though he admits he has not practiced the run-up-to-the-ball routine recently.

“I haven’t done it for a while so I’m probably a little bit rusty,” he said. “But just give me a couple of balls, and I can usually make pretty good contact.”

Like Sandler’s character, one of Gilmore’s strengths is his driver.

“I’m pretty long (off the tee),” he said. “Here lately I’ve been struggling with my driver, but typically I’m very good off the tee and my putting is usually pretty good. I’ve been working hard on getting my wedges up because my irons are decent, but my strong suits are definitely off the tee and off the green.”

“I don’t think it adds any pressure to me,” Gilmore said of his name. “But I do know that whatever I do is going to be seen. Especially as far as leaderboards when people are scrolling down and see ‘Happy Gilmore’ they are going to look at it, obviously. So I do know that, but I don’t let it get in my head or that I have to play good because of it. I just go out and do my thing.”

Hopefully, for Gilmore, that involves getting the ball to its home the next two days.

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