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Doug Clark: Golfer’s buddies take a chip shot

John Nollette, a retired judge, is trying to keep his sense of humor after some of his friends went together and bought billboard space with his photo and an offer of free golf lessons.  (Colin Mulvany)
John Nollette, a retired judge, is trying to keep his sense of humor after some of his friends went together and bought billboard space with his photo and an offer of free golf lessons. (Colin Mulvany)

Can anything in life be more terrifying than a bunch of practical jokers with money?

Ask John Nollette. He’ll give you an answer.

Nollette is a well-known name in the Spokane area.

He’s a former District Court judge. He’s a highly regarded defense attorney. Yes, the 65-year-old is the very portrait of credibility.

Unless you happen to be driving north on Division Street, that is.

Two blocks south of Francis, on the west side of the street, you will encounter a billboard that features a hilariously unflattering photograph of Nollette. It was put up recently thanks to six or seven of Nollette’s golfing cronies.

Nollette didn’t know a thing about it. Not until a friend called and managed to croak out the words between sputters of laughter.

Did I say unflattering?

Actually, what has been done to Nollette may fall more into the legal category of aggravated assault.

First off, Nollette is shown in the grimacing phase of a golf swing that Charles Barkley would pity.

Secondly, there is the matter of Nollette’s attire. His red shirt is stretched to near seam-busting by a protruding paunch. Add to this a pair of garish, oversize, green-and-white patterned shorts that could have come off a colorblind, schizophrenic surfer.

The baggy shorts hang almost down to Nollette’s ankles, where …

One white sock is up. One white sock is down.

Oh, the humanity.

“Legs, Bellys + Balls,” declares the billboard text.

“Free Golf Lessons. Call John Nollette, 24/7 …”

That’s right. The jokers put up Nollette’s actual phone number.

“I’ve had about 20 calls so far,” laments Nollette, who told one that “the golf lessons are free but you have to get me to Maui.”

Poor Nollette.

Beaten like a piñata.

And not the first time, either.

About 10 years ago, he said, the same wiseacres put up a “Heeeere’s Johnny” billboard starring Nollette in another undignified golfing theme.

Nollette said it took him a while to identify the culprits behind the first gag. This time, however, he knows the same crazies have struck again.

“That’s his dress of preference,” said Gail Holden, the head prankster, during a phone interview.

“John’s an unusual man with an unusual wardrobe.”

Nollette and Holden are part of a gang of duffers who take an annual golfing trip to Montana. Nollette said about 25 of them rode a bus to Whitefish in early August where they played some rounds and blew off some steam.

I’m guessing that some drinking might have been involved.

“Oh, no-no-no. This is a go-to-church-on-Sunday bunch,” quipped Nollette.

Sometime during the merriment, Nollette was given the aforementioned shorts. He put them on for kicks and giggles.

“I wore ’em and didn’t think anything of it,” he said.


Snapshots were taken. Evil plans were hatched.

The result now towers over a Division muffler shop in living color.

Holden said it cost $1,150 to inflict Nollette’s golf swing on the public for a month, adding that it wasn’t hard to drum up donations.

Holden also wasn’t worried about any legalities regarding what may or may not have done to Nollette’s name, reputation or golf handicap.

“Truth is a defense,” he said. John’s “not a good golfer and an even worse dresser.”

Bad golfing aside, Nollette – as you can see from our own photograph – is a class act and a great sport.

“It’s all in good fun. What the hell,” he said, pausing a moment to add that revenge is not out of the question.

“There will come a time,” Nollette vowed dramatically. “There will be a day!”

Doug Clark is a columnist with The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at

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