OPINION: Handicapping yourself with a 'Noonan'

May 25—Does anybody besides me, when playing miniature golf with the spouse, yell "Noonan!" intermittently? I was just wondering.

You have to be of a certain age or disposition to get it. If you made it this far without chuckling, you don't get it — meaning you've never seen the movie "Caddyshack," a silly flick that came out in 1980. Critics and audiences alike loved it, and for good reason; it had a stellar cast, including Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield. It's still regarded as one of the best "sports movies," and the absolute top of the heap for golf movies.

I had to pause for a Google, because I wondered just how many "golf movies" have actually been made. Turns out there are plenty, but I doubt anyone but our publisher, Ed Choate, would know. Ed is a single guy, who is my age, and outside the newspaper business, he's all about golf. He even watches it on TV. The other day, I called him, and he whispered, "Hello?" I asked if he was able to talk, and he said he was playing in a golf tournament. He added, "Just a minute," and was gone for a bit. When he came back on the line, I asked, "Did I mess you up?" He said, "No..." but he hesitated. I said, "I didn't say 'Noonan!" He laughed. He knew.

For those who are blissfully ignorant about this movie, let me explain. There was a caddy named Danny Noonan, and when he was playing a competitive round, some of the other caddies hoped to make him miss his putt, by intoning his surname to distract him while he was lining up his shot. It didn't work, as one of my friends pointed out when I used the quip on Facebook the other day. Danny knocked the ball right into the hole.

There are plenty of sports flicks, with "Major League" being among the best. Unless you count "Field of Dreams," "The Natural," and other baseball movies. Then there are the football films like "The Longest Yard," basketball movies including "Hoosiers," and the dozen or so "Rocky" movies; Sylvester Stallone never seems to age out. I guess we can put the "Karate Kid" celluloids in that category.

But I digress. I need to explain why I sometimes utter the name "Noonan!" when I play miniature golf with my husband.

When I confessed to this sin on Facebook the other day, Ted Streuli — the Oklahoma Watch executive director, whom I consider one of the state's best journalists — commented: "Buried the lede. Your spouse willingly plays miniature golf with you?!" When I see Ted at the Oklahoma Press Association convention in a few weeks, I'll have to ask him what he meant. Either he disdains miniature golf — many serious golfers do — or he wonders why my husband would play with someone who yells "Noonan!" anytime he tries to putt.

My husband and son are pretty good golfers, but I've never played the game — not the kind where you have to use drivers, and then eventually putters. I would be what ample golfers derisively call a "duffer." In fact, I'd never played miniature golf until about 10 years ago, when my husband taught me how. He still makes fun of my stance, reminding me that it's all about the knees, and keeping my eye on the ball. Even with "putt-putt," this isn't as easy as it sounds.

If there are any respectable mini golf courses in this immediate area, I don't know about them. However, there are three at Disney World, and a couple at Universal Orlando, and at one time or another, we've played them all. We've probably played more at Universal, which has two courses called "Hollywood Drive-In Golf." Like most mini golf courses, these are themed; one side is haunted, with ghostly apparitions, and the other features aliens.

On our most recent excursion, I actually won by a stroke, and I only said "Noonan" once, in a very low tone. There were too many other people around us, and I didn't want to give anyone the wrong impression. It's just a game, right?

For those who have never played mini golf, it really is fun. There are always some curious obstacles you have to overcome. You might have to putt through a spinning wheel, over several humps, around a large coiled serpent, and in one case I know of, through an outhouse. There are all sorts of weird "hazards," including steps up and down to the various holes. It's easy to make a fool of yourself.

I have astigmatism, and it's gotten worse as I've gotten older. My son inherited this trait. This means we can't always gauge distances, especially if it's dark, and in my case, if I'm wearing heels. On the alien course, there's a steep set of steps between a couple of the holes, and a few years ago, I tripped and took a tumble. Those courses are always packed, and on this particular occasion, I heard a nearby woman whisper, "Is she drunk?" I picked myself up, scowled and wanted to say, "No, are you? I saw you nudge your ball into the hole when your husband wasn't looking." I restrained myself. It's just a game, right?

The ghost course might be a little worse. One of those holes features a rather long "green," but there are tiny holes in it, and on the poles holding up a roof over it. Sometimes water squirts through those holes and hits a hapless putter. It did that to me once, dousing me good. I let out a surprised yelp, and a couple of nearby frat boys laughed. (I'm not demeaning frat rats; my husband and son are among that number.)

If you decide to take up the mini version of the sport, and you're playing with experts, I don't recommend the "Noonan" bit. Instead, point and yell, "Dementors! Dementors!" and see what that gets you.