There are a couple of things that automatically come to mind leading into a conversation with Ken Green, one being how can he possibly return to golf considering the tragic events in his life over the past year and the other being how he can talk so openly about those events to somebody he doesn’t know particularly well.
A year ago, Green was involved in a horrific RV accident in which his brother William, girlfriend Jean Marie and his dog were killed. As a result of the accident, doctors amputated his lower right leg.
Tragedy struck again earlier this year when Green’s 21-year-old son Hunter was found dead in his dorm room at Southern Methodist University. The death was ruled as accidental, but one can only imagine the personal agony of Green, who has already battled bouts of depression, other injuries and financial woes.
Yet, Green, with his prosthetic limb, has played six rounds on the Champions Tour already this year and will play in the inaugural Montreal Championship at Club de golf Le Fontainebleau in Blainville, Que, June 2-4.
“I can honestly tell you that playing the six rounds that I’ve played so far, without a doubt, I feel like they’re a better accomplishment that the tournaments that I’ve won,” said the winner of five PGA Tour events, including the 1988 Canadian Open.
“Physically, I can’t repeat a golf swing, so every swing is a little different. It’s hard to repeat the swing anyway and now it’s made so much harder. The slightest of sidehill lies are an absolute disaster to try to execute on a professional level,” he said.
“I literally shanked a six iron for the first time in my life in Alabama,” said Green, adding that his love for golf never waned despite all he’s had to deal with off the course.
“I loved golf before the accident and I still love golf, but now I have so much respect for the game and for the ability to still play halfway decent,” he said.
“Obviously, I don’t think I’ll ever be the player I once was, but honestly, I can still beat most people. That makes you feel pretty good that you’re enjoying it even more that you used to and you respect it even more,” he said.
“You know that I’ve had a kind of a wild reputation, but it’s been a fun process in that there is some good out of the agony that I’ve had to endure,” said Green.
He has apparently found strength from a game in which players such as players such as Fred Funk, Mark Calcavecchia and Curtis Strange to name a few helped raise money and supported him through tough time, as did complete strangers.
“I can honestly tell you that I have no idea where I’d be if players and friends and strangers – people I don’t even know – if they hadn’t stepped up to the plate or stepped up to the tee, so to speak, I have no idea where I’d be. Financially, I had zero,” he said.
“I had some people send in $5 and $10 and that means as much to me as somebody who might have sent in $1,000 or the Champions Tour players or the regular tour players giving all their pro-am money to me. It’s just been everybody,” said Green.
“There are a lot of people that have tragic things, unfortunately, happen in their lives every day and I don’t know if they’re as lucky as I’ve been. I totally understand how lucky I am that so many people have been able to help,” he said.
That support has not only led to his heightened appreciation for the game, but also his openness in talking about the tragedies.
“I’ve gotten in trouble over the years for being – quote – open..I honestly believe that if you don’t speak the truth and tell the truth, you can never get better, so the answer is yes to your question, that it helps me if I’m talking to you or on my blog if I have a bad day or a good day,” said Green.
“Golf is therapy and talking about it is therapy,” he said. “I hate to bring up his name because I don’t know if it’s fair, but someone like Tiger. If he were more honest and more open, it would be easier to fight the battle that he’s going through right now.”
Obviously, Green has more battles to come, one of which is trying to find events in which to play. To this point, he has been denied a medical exemption, so he will have to depend on sponsor’s exemptions after Montreal to finish off the year.
Even if he does receive a sponsor’s exemption, whether he accepts will depend on the terrain of the course because of his prosthetic limb, but he says it’s tough playing the waiting game.
“I’m a little baffled. To me, you’re going to give somebody an exemption or you’re not. It’s a pretty easy yes or no,” said Green, who admits there are a lot of variable in making that decision.
However, he does believe that he should receive a medical exemption from the Champions Tour, given the circumstances of the last year. He has heard that the tour may be backing off to avoid a lawsuit from other players.
:”I find it hard to believe that another player who might have asked for a major medical because of a back injury or because of a shoulder injury (would complain). They’re two different issues – mine was obviously a catastrophic type injury,” he said.
“I fought a bad back for the last 10 years and that’s just part of the game. When you play golf, injuries happen,” he said.
“Losing your leg doesn’t happen too often.”