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Iced Tee : Like Happy Gilmore, many Mighty Ducks play golf. Unlike him, however, any rough stuff stays on the rinks, not the links.

February 21, 1996|MARTIN HENDERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mighty Ducks defenseman Randy Ladouceur got his nickname, "The Toe," not for anything he did on the ice. He got it for his hacker golf style: He "toed" consecutive drives off a club head, which is to say the ball dribbled five or six yards off the tee--much to the delight and hysteria of his playing partners.

That would never happen to Happy Gilmore. He's the title character in Universal's movie that opened Friday about a hockey player (Adam Sandler) who can't skate but can drive a golf ball halfway to the moon.

Ladouceur can skate, but his drives . . . well, he can skate.

The movie plays off the stereotypical hockey goon, the brawling bad boy whose golf etiquette is cause for five minutes in the penalty box.

But Ducks Coach Ron Wilson--a self-described two- to three-handicapper--says that image is about as accurate as a game-show host (Bob Barker, in this case) punching out a pro hockey player.

"I've never been on a course with a tough hockey player and, if a shot didn't go his way, he would break his clubs," Wilson said. "There's ribbing that goes on, but that's a male camaraderie thing that isn't exclusive to hockey players."

Wilson rarely golfs with his players, however.

Todd Ewen, one of the team's worst golfers--he says his handicap is "both arms"--has heaved his share of clubs into the water. And Mike Sillinger, one of the best golfers with a five to six handicap, has had his moments too.

"I've broken a few clubs, but it's nothing you lose sleep over," said Sillinger, a center. "It's funny. You think about it afterward and it's stupid--it's definitely not the putter's fault or the wedge's fault. It's your fault. It's like a hockey stick. I've broken lots of hockey sticks out of frustration."

So, it's a game of frustration, right?

"It's a game of relaxation--that's what they say it is." Laughter interrupts Sillinger's response when he recognizes the irony. "I play to relax."

But there's no doubt his hockey instincts surface on the fairway, mostly in a competitive nature. But he's definitely a hockey player first.

"My golf swing comes from my slap shot," said Sillinger, who took up golf five years ago. "I used to grip [the club] basically like a baseball bat and swing like my hockey swing, a short, choppy swing. Over the years, slowly, it's starting to become a golf swing. I don't think I have good golf swing--I have a decent golf swing--but I still see a lot of slap shot in it."

*

"Happy Gilmore's" premise--a hard-swinging hockey player turning into a long-driving golfer--has some validity, but it's not inherent to hockey players alone.

"What most hockey players can do is drive a golf ball a long way," Wilson said. "Baseball players drive it a mile too. Pro athletes, because of their size and strength, usually hit the ball a long way. It's about athleticism."

Ewen said it's also about weight transfer: "In a slap shot, you take your weight back and then work your weight through. [In golf], you can exchange those two types of movements."

And then there's that whole hand-eye coordination thing.

"You have the hockey stick, and you're shooting a puck all the time," Sillinger said. "You take a pass, give a pass, and everything happens so fast." Unlike golf, where it's you, the ball and your nerves.

"I think a lot of guys play golf because it's such a release from what we do," said Ewen, who plays every Sunday in the off-season in St. Louis. "In golf, I get frustrated at the ball once in a while--I've fired my club into the lake a few times. But I've never actually grabbed anybody and tossed them around the golf course.

"I would like to sometimes. [When] someone gives me some bad advice on what to do, I wouldn't mind tossing them."

But so far, Ewen restricts his fights to the ice. The Ducks enforcer--he beats up the opponents who beat up the Ducks--holds the franchise record for penalty minutes.

*

Sillinger and Bobby Dollas are regarded as the best golfers on the Ducks. Perhaps the best golfer in the NHL is Philadelphia's Dan Quinn, who has won Celebrity Golf Assn. events.

No fewer than 16 Ducks list golf as a hobby in the 1995-96 media guide, and eight--Sillinger, Dollas, Guy Hebert, Alex Hicks, David Karpa, Joe Sacco, Garry Valk and Jason York--play often.

"I don't play enough to have any stories," Ladouceur said. "But I hear stories. Dollas plays a lot, and the guys kid him about his handicap. One day his handicap is a little higher than it was the day before, depending on who he's playing. I hear that a lot."

Once, Dollas even got the guy who controls his ice time.

"Bobby Dollas has a way of irritating you enough to throw you off your game," said Wilson, the coach. "He manages to get a lot of strokes and then usually wins because of the strokes you give him. I feel sorry for him because he begs for strokes to play; otherwise he can't be competitive. He has to rely on the graces of whoever he plays with to win."

Ouch. That's gotta hurt more than stitches.

"When you don't play every day, you're really going to struggle," Wilson said. "I think it's unreasonable when you hear Michael Jordan wanted to play on the PGA Tour--that's like Michael Jordan wanting to play Major League Baseball. You can't just switch sports when you're 30 years old and become a pro golfer. It just doesn't work out."

It does in the movies.

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