TOUR Insider: Green an inspiring example of never giving upENDICOTT, NY - AUGUST 17: Ken Green putts for birdie on the first green during the first round of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open at En-Joie Golf Course on August 17, 2012 in Endicott, New York. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) ENDICOTT, NY - AUGUST 17: Ken Green putts for birdie on the first green during the first round of the Dickâs Sporting Goods Open at En-Joie Golf Course on August 17, 2012 in Endicott, New York. (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)September 11, 2013
By Vartan Kupelian, Champions Tour Insider
The name didn’t explode off the leaderboard. You had to search a bit to find it but it was there. Given the circumstances, anyone would agree that seeing Ken Green on a line that said T25 after two rounds was a remarkable achievement.
Just being there, at the Montreal Championship, was a major accomplishment for Green, who was playing in his first full-field event of the year.
Just being on a golf course, anywhere, required a unique level of perseverance. Green is proving every day that he has it not just with his golf but also with his words. Every sentence has a purpose not only for himself but also for others.
“It’s a rough go,” said Green, who lost his leg and so much more in an automobile accident in 2009. “When you think about it, you lose your wife and your brother then a few months later you lose your son and then you lose your leg and you lose your life.
“When I say my life, I mean golf. I love golf. I want to play golf every day. Golf is my hobby. It's my only hobby. I was lucky enough for it to be my work. I love it.”
Green has added a mission to his golf.
“It would be an absolute home run for me if a young kid reads the story about never giving up and where I came from even as a kid and the things that happened then that affected how I developed into a man and then what happened when I became a man,” he said. “How you just don't give up. There is no reason to give up. It serves no purpose.”
It’s been more than four years since Green’s motor home blew the right front tire, forcing him off the road into an embankment and into a tree. Green’s brother, girlfriend and his dog were killed. Green’s lower right leg was amputated. Seven months later, his son, Hunter, died.
In 2010, Green returned to the Champions Tour at the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, where he teamed with Mike Reid to finish T26. He played two more events that year but was forced to withdraw at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open. Green played five events over the next two years and arrived at Montreal with no clue of what to expect, golf-wise.
“It's been quite a road,” Green said. “I caught the bad luck lottery with amputees in that we have been fighting a really bad nerve pain for the last four years that has been -- wow, I can't even begin to explain how awful it is.
“I have had so many operations and procedures to try to stop this since the accident and we have just come up empty. It's been a little discouraging because I was so determined to do something good with everything that has happened.”
Green underwent surgery again in May and that has helped to reduce the pain.
“Now it is my hope to be able to withstand the pain that I have and actually try to do something good with this hand that was dealt to me,” he said. “In terms of playing golf or practicing, I can honestly tell you I haven't hit any balls since the accident in terms of trying to find a golf swing. Can Ken Green find a golf swing to compete out here?“
I'll probably be able to answer that next year, but this year I'm just tickled to be playing.”
Green’s goal in Montreal was to “beat 20 or 25 guys – it would be like winning the U.S. Open,” he said. He did for 36 holes before a final-round 80 left him tied for 58th.
“Next year it will get better,” Green said. “That's my plan. Just try to do the right thing whether it's for the disabled or some of the Wounded Warriors or kids or anybody to give them a smile. That is my job now, the way I look at it. Golf is no longer my job, but I'm going to use golf to accomplish the other job.”
And that is to tell his story with the hope that it convinces other never to give up.
“I've actually talked to quite a few people that have contacted me,” he said. “I've had someone from Australia that lost a leg and they couldn't understand how I seemed to be so upbeat and accepted it.
“Someone in Hong Kong, an Army kid – this one really touches me – he was on the verge of killing himself. We started talking and he was able to regroup. When something like that happens it makes you feel pretty good that you are actually doing something pretty good for someone.”
True to his word, Green hasn’t given up on the notion of winning a golf tournament again.
“I honestly think that I'm going to win eventually,” he said. “There is a big hole in my head so maybe some brains are missing. I honestly think that I can still win.
“If you watch me play a few holes, you'll actually see that I can hit a good quality shot.”
Or he can hit it not so well.
“That's just part of my game,” Green said. “I do believe now that I'm going to be able to practice and work on it that I can get rid of the bad part and turn it into the good part. I can't tell you how excited I am about next year. I mean, good things are going to happen next year.
“Golf was the only reason I'd even gotten to this point. I wanted to accomplish something with golf and through golf to do something good for somebody else who might be struggling. That has been my only agenda to keep moving, those two factors, golf and helping.”
Champions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR.