Skip to main content

Its Not Easy Being Green

Sometimes the problem with having a story is that you have to tell it. Over and over again.
Chris DiMarco is exhausted from talking about his putting grip. Bob Estes delivers that 'Here We Go Again' look when asked about his career turnaround. Pat Perez would prefer you never say the words 'Pebble Beach' to him again.
Asking a player to continuously tell their tale might bring about a sigh, even frustration. But it rarely requires soul searching. And it usually doesnt force a man to relive the worst time of his life.
Ken Green is a notable exception.
Since regaining his PGA Tour card at last years qualifying tournament, Green has been the subject of many a story, from local to national publication. And every time a microphone or tape recorder is placed in his worn face, he must discuss his demons.
The best way I can explain it is that there is a financial demon, a panic demon, a scare demon ' its all little voices, so to speak, that just keep pounding in your head while youre trying to play golf or while youre trying to accomplish certain things in life. Just basically everything fell apart and they took over, he again recalled on Wednesday nights Golf Channel Pre-Game show.
Green is making is 2003 PGA Tour debut this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
He opened in 4-under 68 at Pebble Beach Golf Links. On the surface, its something you might expect from a decorated veteran, but on deeper inspection its nothing short of exceptional.
Ken Green's Scorecard
Green was a regular on the PGA Tour for nearly two decades. He won five times and was a member of the 1989 Ryder Cup team.
Through all his talent ' Johnny Miller once described him as the best fairway wood player in the game ' Green was more noted for his personality, which was even more colorful than his name.
Green was, simply put, abrasive. He threw clubs and trash-talked fellow pros. He said he was fined 24 times by tour officials (an unofficial record).
But his on-course antics and altercations were nothing compared to what he was forced to reckon with in his personal life.
Depression, Debt and Divorce were his 3-D demons. He lost a child-custody battle; he lost his swing; he lost his mind.
I can admit I wasnt too far away from the psycho ward, he said.
But there was always the game itself. What once made him mad proved to be a passion that tried to keep him sane.
I actually love playing golf, I always have and I always will. Before I kind of went haywire, I was getting a little too hard on myself and beat myself up, he said.
I wouldnt quit.
Green lost his exempt status on tour after the 1996 season; his conditional status soon followed. He spent the next five years increasingly more on the Nationwide Tour.
From 1998 to 2001 ' the days of economic boom in the world of golf, he earned a shade over 100 grand ' tough times for a man still under the thumb of the IRS.
Then, for reasons he cant fully explain, things changed.
Those demons he likes to talk about gave him back control. While touring the less-than-glamorous developmental circuit in an RV with his girlfriend, he had four top-10s in 17 starts. He finished 41st on the money list ' with more money ($108,370) than he made the last four years combined. He then posted a pair of closing 68s at Q-School to regain his PGA Tour card.
Green is again at the wheel. But some of the demons are still along for the ride.
I can kid about it now, but Ill be on medicine for the rest of my life, and Im not ashamed of it. Its just something I had to deal with and because of it, Im a little better person, he said.
Lifes not meant to be easy all the time.
If you knew Ken Green then, you might not recognize him now.
The glasses are gone; green shoes, gone; hair, gone. Theyve been replaced by lengthening age lines and an expanding waistline.
His ego has also been tempered with caution: I definitely feel I can win again ' certain courses only, certain courses I dont have a prayer,' he admitted.
Hes not awash in 'change,' however. He still has his deadpan sense of humor: What you learn from the young guys is simply that they hit it too far and I dont like them, he said without a smirk.
Green cant hit it like he used. Shoulder surgery has forced him to alter his swing, thus taking away some of his power. But he has some intangibles, primarily his desire.
Im psyched about it, to be honest with you, Green said about his return to the big tour. Im probably more nervous now than I was when I first got my card back in 1982.
Thats not to say everyone else is psyched about his re-emergence.
Green alienated several people in his primary days: tour officials, players, tournament organizers and even volunteers.
Because of his status ' finishing tied for 26th at Q-School ' he might not play on a regular basis until the tour reshuffles its order for newly exempt players.
But hes not about to sweat the small stuff now.
Ive certainly had better trips than its been the last five years, but its something I look forward to this year, he said. Im just going to go out and play some golf, try to have fun and see if I can compete with the kids.