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Even PGA Tour pros pay homage to 'Happy Gilmore'

Chubbs Peterson, left, played by Carl Weathers, thought Adam Sandler's character, Happy Gilmore, was "pro material" and that he should give up hockey to focus on becoming a professional golfer. Universal/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES -- We have collectively failed as a nation.

Tuesday should have been a national holiday. A day of celebration. A day to do the bull dance. To feel the flow. To work it, work it.

Instead, the 20th anniversary of the Feb. 16, 1996, release of "Happy Gilmore" passed with minimal fanfare. No gold jackets, no oversized paychecks in the backseats of our cars, no gratuitous hockey fights with legendary game show host Bob Barker.

At least the occasion didn't pass without some ceremonial observances at Riviera Country Club, here in the shadows of Hollywood.

Professional golfers are often stereotyped as more Shooter McGavin than Happy Gilmore, but some of the world's best were on the driving range Tuesday, jokingly emulating the title character's half-hockey, half-golf slapshot swing popularized by Adam Sandler two decades ago. (Pro tip: It's all in the hips.)

Sandler was even supposed to be here at the course, judging each swing, until a last-minute cancellation. That's all right, though. He could always check out YouTube, where he'll find everything from John Peterson hitting a Happy Gilmore tee shot to begin his final round of last year's CIMB Classic to Jordan Spieth employing the maneuver at country music singer Jake Owen's recent charity event.

"[Speith] says, 'You want me to Happy Gilmore this off the tee?'" Owen recalled last week. "And I'm like, 'No, no, no, there's tons of people' -- and with that, before I could get it out of my mouth, he runs on the tee box and Happy Gilmore's it down the fairway."

Consider it the latest reminder that professional golfers are just like us. In other words, they love the movie, they laugh at the movie and, yes, they still watch the movie. Over and over and over.

"I've seen it at least 50 times," Smylie Kaufman guessed. "It's one of my favorites. I can quote it all."

"Gotta be over 50," Robert Streb estimated. "We owned it and had a TV in our van as kids, so we saw it a lot."

"I mean, maybe millions," Keegan Bradley said. "It's the kind of movie that comes on TV, and you can't ever turn it off. You get sucked in."

Or as Dustin Johnson succinctly put it: "Who doesn't like 'Happy Gilmore?'"

Much like "Caddyshack," its comedic precursor, "Happy Gilmore" spawned a new vernacular from its viewers. Just as "Noonan!" had once been the go-to signature call on muni-course greens around the world, Happy's wail to his ball of, "Go to your home!" has sparked a language that every golfer now speaks.

"I don't quote it that much, but people yell 'Happy Gilmore' references at me a lot on the course," Brendan Steele said. "Any tournament, but especially fresh in my mind is Phoenix. 'Go to your home!' is probably the most-used one, but I feel like you hear all sorts of things from the crowds."

"My caddie and I, we have punch lines from the movie," James Hahn confessed. "I like the caddie that marks his ball with crackers and then picks it up."

If it sounds like all fun and games, well, that's not too far off.

Buried deep inside the plotline to "Happy Gilmore" are a few uplifting messages -- ones which have even inspired some of these golfers, believe it or not.

"I'd always wanted to get a big check like Happy Gilmore," Kaufman said. "I accomplished that in Indiana [on the Web.com Tour]. I was so happy. It's in my room at home. It's so sweet."

"It teaches that you don't have to be the stereotype of what a golfer is," Paul Casey said. "I'm not a country club kid. I was lucky I got into the game. I was allowed to go play places by very kind people. My parents couldn't afford it. It always irks me when people say tour pros are all country club kids. That's rubbish. I really like anything that goes against the establishment, to an extent. So it strikes a chord."

While the title character -- "a hockey player who's playing golf today" -- competed against a roster of those stereotyped professionals in such fictional tournaments as the Waterbury Open, there was one real golfer who got his name into the film credits for a few quick scenes.

Lee Trevino captured 89 career professional titles and six major championships, but for a certain generation of fans, he's the guy who made a few funny-face cutaways in the film and offered up the line, "Grizzly Adams did have a beard."

"With today's technology, they'll do a movie and nobody ever meets anybody; they just splice it together," Trevino recently told ESPN.com of the cameos he shot at PGA National. "It took me 15 minutes, and the guy gives me $50,000. Fifteen minutes. That's pretty good for a kid coming off a cotton farm."

That wasn't all, either. He's still earning money from the residuals.

"I got [a check] for $8.25 the other day," Trevino said, laughing. "They showed it in London. And I got $8.25. Swear to God. You can't make that up. I'm going to buy two gallons of gas."

We've now reached 20 years of repeatable lines, 20 years of emulating that slap shot swing, 20 years of loving a goofy movie about a hockey player who's playing golf today.

It should've been a national holiday. We should've celebrated this momentous occasion more.

But you've gotta rise above it. You've gotta harness in the good energy, block out the bad. Harness. Energy. Block. Bad. Feel the flow. Feel it. It's circular. It's like a carousel. You pay the quarter, you get on the horse, it goes up and down, and around. It's circular. Circle, with the music, the flow. All good things.