The “Friends of Green” golf tournament took place Monday at Ridgewood Country Club in Danbury as over 100 golfers played in the charity event to raise money for the Ken Green Living Trust Fund, designed to assist in Green’s medical bills after the June 8 auto accident that killed Green’s brother Billy, his girlfriend Jeannie Hodgin and his dog Nip.
The event was looking to raise between $125,000 and $200,000 for Green, who had his right leg amputated below the knee as a result of the accident. Green, who has started — albeit very slowly — playing golf with the aid of a prosthetic, wants to become the first professional to play on Tour with an artificial leg.
In all, 20 players from the PGA and Champions Tour came out to support Green, including his good friend Mark Calcevecchia, Along with Calc, Michael Allen, Greg Kraft, phil Blackmar, Ronnie Black, Andy Bean, Fred Funk, Tim Simpson, Blaine McCallister, Mike Reid, Brad Bryant, Mike Goodes, Bill Britton, Russ Cochran, Bob Gilder, Chip beck, Bob Tway and Mike Hulbert. CBS TV golf announcers David Feherty and Peter Kostis were also on hand.
I am writing a column for Tuesday’s Connecticut Post but here’s all the extra stuff that I didn’t use. Enjoy.
(Being here for Green)
“This is a good thing. I only played with Kenny on the U.S. Tour for a couple of years and I always had a good time with him. He and I share a couple of common problems, you know? He’s a raving lunatic as well. It’s just one of those things where he’s had so much misfortune in his life and was never one to fit in. He always stood out, one way or the other and it’s really nice to see all these guys showing up here to help in out.”
(His goal to become the first pro to play with a prosthetic?)
“You could call it mental toughness or just being obstinate or whatever. I have a foundation, where I’ve got 18 wounded American soldiers, all of them amputees and Kenny’s going to come hunting with us in about a month. For him to be around those guys, a lot are Green Barets, Army Rangers, Navy Seals … three of them are going to be re-deployed, they’re going back in a full capacity with below the knee amputation, like Kenny has. For him to see what these people can do I think will be tremendous for him. It’s really inspiring. It’s the greatest thing that I’ve had happen to me was to get involved with these troops and it’s one of the reasons I really wanted to be here.”
(What’s the foundation you work with?)
“It’s called Troops First Foundation. It’s just about these soldiers that come home, particularly those that come home with lost limbs. It’s not so much the limb that they’ve lost, it’s the dignity. They‘ve gone through so much to be what they are, a Special Forces soldier. Whether they’re 101st Airborne, or 82nd or 25th Infantry or Green Baret or Navy Seal or Marine, whatever. They go through so much and the American public has such a distorted view of what they. It’s just not fashionable to be a solider anymore. Well, I’m here to tell you it sure as hell is. They’re the finest people that I’ve ever met. The time that I’ve spent with them has been therapeutic. These people are stunning.”
(Being here for Green)
“It was just a tragic situation that he was in. You can’t even fathom the pain he’s been through and we’re just supporting him the best we can. And to get the people he grew up with and love him involved and raise some money for him … this is one great thing about our sport. We can go out and raise money on these individual days for a lot of different causes but this is for one of our brothers, basically. We’re just a big traveling circus when you think about it, we just take our show from town to town each week and if you play well you get some money and if you don’t, you go to the next town. As a whole, when guys go through a hard time and they suffer for a while and they break through and they win again or they re-qualify (for their Tour card), everybody on the Tour is happy for them. But when something like this happens, everyone’s concerned and the first thing I thought of was, ‘We have to do something for Kenny.’ It took a while, we had to get past the initial shock and now this has been put together. It’s just great that we can get together and do something.”
(How does the ‘return to golf’ process begin?)
“The first thing was have to do is get him in the gym and work him out and get his muscle strength back. He lost a lot of muscle strength and weight during the recovery process and his golf swing is going to have to require a little more upper body strength, a little more hand speed, a little more arm action, stuff like that. But we have to first get him strong enough so he can do that. Kenny and I have already talked about it and obviously, he’s very anxious to get out there, he’s already played more than he should have. It’s going to take some patience.
“In the meantime, we can do some short game stuff, 100 yards and in, start to get him balanced, so he’s accustomed to that. Next, we’ll have to design the prosthetic, so he can turn off of his right leg and into his left leg a little easier. The one that he has now can’t do that, it’s not designed for that purpose.”
(Can he ever get back to playing at the level he was?)
“That will depend on how much strength was can build back in. In terms of off the tee, there are things we can do with a longer shafted driver and stuff like that to get him to hit it far enough off the tee. The thing that I’m going to be concerned about is not the basic golf swing because we can do that, it’s going to be handling the uneven lies, the difficult, awkward stances, stuff like that. See what transpires there.”
(But there’s hope, right?)
“Back in the ‘80s I coached the national amputee champion. This guy was an above the knee amputee and no prosthetic. He used crutches, dropped them when he got to the ball, hit the shot on one leg and then picked up the crutches again. It’s amazing what they’re doing these days with prosthetic devices. We had a Green Baret stay with us at Hilton Head and he just got permission to be re-deployed back to Afganistan. He went through all the training, passed everything and so I told Ken, ‘Listen, if he can get re-deployed to Afganisitan, I can teach you how to hit a golf ball.”
(How did you hear about the accident?)
“I was at home in Florida and I think Kevin Richardson called me. He was one of the first guys that found out about it and it was ‘Oh (blank),’ and then it kind of … you kept finding out more and more. What I do remember was at first they thought they could save the leg, which I was really hoping and praying for and when they couldn’t, I just lost it. I thought that was the end of it. But as it turned out, he asked the doctors what he had to do to play golf again, and when they said, the leg would have to go, Kenny said ‘Cut it off.’ That’s Ken.
(Emotional to see him again? First time since the accident)
“For me it was. I gave him a hug. It was great to see him. We have talked a lot. I wasn’t surprised (at the leg) I’d seen all the pictures on the computer. I’d seen what the stump looked like and what the prosthetic looked like. The gash on his head. I was more worried about missing the tooth. I said, ‘When was the last time you were actually at a dentist?’ He doesn’t like them. He said, ‘Five years ago.’ I said, ‘You might want to get your teeth cleaned a little more often than that.’
He was always a little scary looking to begin with but now, scar on his head, crushed eye socket, tooth missing. Geez. Still, his personality hasn’t changed.”
(Can you get back to what you would consider a professional level?)
“That’s what we don’t know yet. Obviously, at our level on the Champions Tour is far above anybody that just goes and plays golf, whether they’re a golfer or an amputee golfer. Everyone says it’ll be no problem, they don’t understand how much better we are. And I don’t mean that in a bragging sense, but we are. I mean, your average good golfer on a course is not even sniffing what we can do. That’s the question. Am I going to lose that two or three levels that we have over everyone else. I obviously will lose some physical abilities but (golf coach) Peter’s (Kostis) not worried about it and if he says we’ll make the changes in the swing, we’ll do it. Personally, I think my brain will be stronger. That’s been one of my main weaknesses has been my demons but now I’ve got this goal, so to speak. I want to do something and I want to make sure it gets done.
(You played Sunday at Richter Park.)
“I did play and it was pathetic. I shot like 90. They (my friends) made me play from the back tees, those swines. Believe me, though, I was estatic. Up here it was so hard compared to the first time I played nine in Florida. The lies here are all over the place. I’m uphill, downhill, sidehill and all of a sudden I’m thinking I’m in a new world. Stuff that I took for granted before … I know how to hit all those shots. I don’t even think about them anymore, I just do it. Now, I’m thinking ‘What do I do?’ because I don’t know how to swing with this thing now on a flat lie. That was interesting.
(How’s the game?)
“There is no game. I goofed around and played nine holes and I goofed around and played 18. We don’t have the right prosthetic yet, the ankle … we can’t even start working on anything until the ankle gets healed and that’s still a month or so away. You have to build it up slowly.”
(Talk about the cards and letters)
“I’ve probably gotten around 400 or 500 and more come in every day. From all over, from New Zealand, the UK …it’s mind-boggling that so many people know about it. It’s really wild. Some of them weren’t golfers at all. A lot of them were from dog lovers and they were sad to hear about my dog’s passing. It’s weird.
(Speaking of dogs …)
“I’m actually flying to Texas tomorrow to pick up a new German Shepherd. A guy that I played with in a pro-am 20 years ago has two sheperds and his breeder is having a litter and he’s giving me one of them. I’ve had like six different offers for dogs and I’ve turned them all down but for some reason, this one …this is a puppy, nine weeks old. So that will give me another boost to live. I’ve got someone to take care of. I’ll wait and see him before I name him.”
(How long have you known Calc?)
“Since college … 30 years or so. I actually helped him out a few times and he helped me. It’s been a long time. The weird thing was, in college, we really weren’t friends. We weren’t even close to hanging out with each other. It wasn’t until we both got on tour at the same time and we started hanging out because we knew each other. And as it turned out we had a lot in common. Golf, bowling, some video games, gambling. We had a lot of fun.”