Ken Green: The Real Golf Comeback Story Of 2010

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2010

VALENCIA, CA - MARCH 14:  Ken Green hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the AT&T Champions Classic  on March 14, 2009 at Valencia Country Club in Valencia, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Three weeks ago Tiger Woods returned from a five month self-imposed exile to finish fourth at the Masters.

So what…big deal.

Last weekend Ken Green returned to the Champions Tour for the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf a year after having the lower portion of right leg amputated as a result of a car accident that also took the lives of his brother, his long-time girlfriend and his dog.

A tragedy of this magnitude is enough to drive even the most light-hearted individual into a deep depression. 

Let’s just say that Green has, well, never been known as a light-hearted kind of guy.  In fact, he has spent more than a decade battling inner demons on the course and depression off the course.

The first thought that came across the minds of many was that this is precisely the type of event that could drive Green into the darkest depths of despair.

But instead of heading down that dark road most expected him to travel, Green decided to head in the opposite direction with the game of golf guiding his way. 

Green completely engrossed himself in his rehabilitation with the intention of one day returning to the Champions Tour.

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Aside from re-discovering his love for the game, golf also provided Green with a much needed outlet during this difficult time in his life. 

And Green was by no means forced to make this journey alone.

Numerous members of the PGA Tour decided to donate a portion of their Wednesday pro-am earnings to Green during the 2009 season.  In addition, an outing in Palm Beach Florida last November raised more than $400,000 to help cover Green’s medical expenses…with “help” being the operative word when considering the cost of health care in America.  

As the New Year rung in, Green was more determined than ever to make his way back onto the Champions Tour; only life had yet another cruel twist of fate in store for him.

In late January, Green’s son, Hunter, was found dead in his dorm room at Southern Methodists University.

At this point, Green must have been asking himself what he could have possibly done to deserve this unfathomable amount of personal heartbreak.

Although Green will never find out the answer to that question, he continued to stick with the one thing in life that he did know – golf.

Green waged a daily battle against both physical and mental pain as he moved closer to his ultimate goal, which he achieved last weekend in Savannah, Georgia.

After years of depression, financial hardship, inner demons, poor play and personal tragedy it appears that the golf Gods have finally decided to smile upon Ken Green.  

Green began his opening round last Friday with back-to-back bogeys after duck-hooking his first two tee shots.

Following another pulled tee shot on the ninth hole, Green walked off the tee box with a downright dejected look upon his face; the kind of look you’d expect to see from a man who in the last 12 months has lost his girlfriend, his brother, his son, his dog and the lower portion of his right leg.  

But that was the end of Green’s downward spiral on Friday afternoon.  It was as if the golf Gods all came together and said “ok, that’s enough!  There’s only so much pain and suffering one man should have to endure in one lifetime.”

Green pierced a six iron through the wind and onto the ninth green, which was the first green he had hit in regulation all-day.

Although he missed the birdie putt, green would go on to play his final 10 holes in one-under-par.

He and teammate Mike Reid carded a 67 in their opening round which landed them in 17th place out of 33 teams; not bad considering that half of the two-man team was playing on one leg.

It didn’t matter that Green and Reid would go on to finish the tournament in 26th place; Green had already achieved victory the moment he struck his first tee shot on Friday afternoon.  

“You know, obviously there's tons in life besides golf, but golf is what I am using to try to push me forward without losing it,” Green said at last week in Savannah.

It may be naïve to think that sports can save a man’s life, but in Green’s case, that’s precisely what the game of golf has done for him.

“Golf is everything to me,” Green said.  “I love golf. Some guys play golf just because they're damn good and they make a living. I love golf.”

For this story and others like it, check out The Tour Report's Monday Backspin Blog .

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