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Ken Green Returns to Competition this Week in Montreal
Ken Green is nothing if not dedicated. The five-time winner on the PGA Tour has undergone considerable personal and physical upheaval after being seriously injured in 2009 when his motor home left Interstate 20 near Meridian, Miss.
In addition to losing his brother William, girlfriend Jeanne Hodgin and his beloved dog Nip in the traffic accident, Green suffered injuries to his lower right leg that were so severe that that portion of the limb had to be amputated.
Green vowed to return to competitive golf soon after the accident despite his disability. And he did. In April 2010, he was paired with his good friend Mike Reid in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, a 54-hole Champions Tour two-man, best-ball competition held at The Westin Savannah Harbor Resort and Spa in Savannah, Ga.
Though he and Reid finished at 12-under 204, 16 shots behind winners Mark O'Meara and Nick Price, Green's comeback was one of golf's feel-good moments of 2010.
After completing his first round in that event, Green said he was quite fearful of how he'd perform so soon after being fitted with a prosthetic leg. "I was petrified," he noted then. "I was scared that I was going to embarrass golf and myself."
Green knew then he'd never be able to be the player he once was, but hoped his role as a touring pro would inspire the physically challenged and those who've endured serious hardships. "I haven't been known for inspiring people throughout my career," he said in 2010. "But I've got a chance to do something good for people, something important in golf, and for people who are disabled, and people who have had accidents."
It's been a long, rugged road since then for Green, who's playing for the first time - as an individual entrant - this year in the Montreal Championship. The 54-hole Champions Tour starts Friday at Vallee du Richelieu Rouville in Sainte-Julie, Quebec,
Over the past four years he's endured further surgeries - with his most recent in May - to help ease the continuous pain. Yet he remains optimistic, despite myriad setbacks. "I have had so many operations and procedures to try to stop this since the accident and we have just come up empty," he told reporters Wednesday. "It's been a little discouraging because I was so determined to do something good with everything that has happened and I literally just - there is nothing I can do.
"I couldn't function. We had a surgery in May that has cut my pain in half, so 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 still hopes that playing competitive golf on a prosthetic leg inspires people. "Right now, if I can beat 25 guys or 20 guys, it would be like winning the U.S. Open," he said this week. "Next year it will get better. 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."
Green will be paired in the first round of the Montreal Championship with Australia's Peter Senior and South Africa's Fulton Allem. During his press conference Wednesday, Green displayed remarkable resilience, his usual keen sense of humor, and a dedication to a new life that's truly inspiring to not only people with disabilities but his fellow touring pros. Here's what the 55-year-old had to tell the media.
MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Ken Green into the Montreal Championship media center. Ken, maybe just get us started. This is going to be your first full field event this year. I know you played in the Legends of Golf with Mike Reid back in April. Maybe just catch us up, how much golf you have been playing before you came here to Montreal this week?
KEN GREEN: Hey, guys, how are you? It's been quite a road. 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 don't know how old you guys are, but because I'm as old as I am, you guys remember when you stick your finger in the socket and you get zapped, that zzzz, cut that in half and that's what my leg does all day long. Then I have moments that it goes to that high level and I literally can't move.
We have been trying to - 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 and I literally just - there is nothing I can do. I couldn't function. We had a surgery in May that has cut my pain in half, so 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.
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 - I'm tickled to be playing. I mean, I'm going to - I'll either explain it to you or show you a picture that's going to make playing pretty hard this week. My leg ripped open on Monday, and I have a - I don't know, it's about yea big (indicating) of raw skin on my stump leg, and we bandaged it as well as we can but it's going to be rough. I figure it can't be any worse than the other stuff. It will probably affect my ability to play as well as I was planning on playing this week.
I really was confident before this happened that I was going to have my best event ever. At this point, you know, you go in stages. Right now, if I can beat 25 guys or 20 guys, it would be like winning the U.S. Open. Next year it will get better. 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. I babbled on. If anybody want as question, fire away.
Q. Have people reached out to you knowing what happened just for advice or some inspiration?
KEN GREEN: Yeah, I've actually talked to quite a few people that have contacted me and just all over. I've had someone from Australia that lost their leg and they couldn't understand how I seemed to be so upbeat and I was not worried about it and accepted it. There is someone in Hong Kong that contacted me and he was an Army kid that - this one really touches me. But he was on the verge of killing himself and we started talking and he was able to regroup. And you know, he still has pain, but he is no longer going to kill himself. So when something like that happens, you know, it makes you feel pretty good that you are actually doing something, you know, pretty good for someone.
KEN GREEN: Well, I mean, I honestly think that I'm going to win eventually. I know that might be a little - there is a big hole in my head so maybe some brains are missing. I honestly think that I can still win. I know it's not going to happen this week; there is no way. It's not physically possible. I'm still really weak. Basically, except for a few times, I have been basically sitting at the house in my bed just not feeling too well. So the muscle, you know, I hit it nowhere. I mean, if you guys think Corey Pavin was short, Corey might be longer than me.
It's a process. This is, I think, a little over 7,000, which is - it's going to be rough. The harder the better. Maybe I can still make pars. These guys out here just make birdies like we're having a beer. The rough is not as hard on the Champions Tour as regular Tour events. It's basically a birdie fest. I'm hoping that's why I was really psyched when I Montreal was flattish because hills are a nightmare for me. It makes it very hard, as you can imagine, to hit a pro-quality shot on just the slightest of hills. Shots that I used to not even blink about, you know, now I'm wiggling and waggling. I'm like Sergio with my legs trying to hit it in the right spot so this leg won't get in the way.
I don't know, I mean, if I studied the golf course today and you asked me, I can probably give you a better answer what I legitimately think I can shoot. You are in the ballpark is what I would think. I did play in the Connecticut Open and I got one round under par and one round at par on a hilly course so that was pretty impressive, I thought. My problem is I slip a lot and it's a question of what happens with that slip. Do you pay with a double? Do you pay with a triple? And it's just part of my world. I'm always going to slip. When you make that golf swing and the body doesn't move the way it's supposed to, the foot slips out. I've literally topped shots. I just laugh. What else can you do? That's just part of the learning experience. The accident was four years ago, the golf part is just now starting to happen.
KEN GREEN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, it's a rough go. 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'm not like 80 percent of these guys who don't even care if they play golf. I want to play golf every day. Golf is my hobby, you know. It's my only hobby. I was lucky enough for it to be my work. I love it. It would be an absolute home run for me if a young kid reads the story about, you know, never giving up and, you know, 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, and now as I become an old man how you just don't - you don't give up. There is no reason to give up. It spurs no purpose. You have to love to fail and you have to hate to fail. If you don't love and hate, you will never accomplish anything.
Q. Looking back on earlier this year, how would you evaluate how that couple of days went?
KEN GREEN: You know, if you watch me play a few holes, you'll actually see that I can hit as good a quality shot as (indiscernible) or Freddie (Couples). I just haven't developed a consistency. Then I can hit as good a shot as you hacks. I got both shots. That's just part of my game. 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 bout next year. I mean, good things are going to happen next year.
KEN GREEN: Oh, absolutely. I mean, well, I'm pretty much an open book. So I can honestly tell you that before this surgery in May, my son and my girl knew that if it didn't work, I was probably going to be leaving. It was just four years of that much pain was just and nobody could figure it out. 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, was those two factors, golf and helping.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.