Featured Golf News
Ken Green Set to Play at Valhalla
Ken Green will be wearing his prosthetic right leg when he tees off in the opening round of the Senior PGA Championship. The Champions Tour major will be held at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville.
Doctors amputated Green's leg below the knee after they couldn't save it following a tragic RV crash near Hickory, Miss., that killed Green's girlfriend, brother and dog.
A five-time winner on the PGA Tour, Green now suffers from constant headaches and leg pain that prevent him from playing golf more than once a week. Yet he's played in four events on the Champions Tour since the accident and is "psyched" to be in the 156-player field for the 72nd Senior PGA Championship.
Besides playing as well as possible, Green's biggest concern is being able to walk Valhalla, particularly since weather forecasts are calling for rain - and perhaps lightning - Thursday. "I'm actually thrilled to be here," he said Tuesday.
"I'm a little concerned that - I didn't realize this course was as long as it is and obviously the rain, it's going to be a little tough and it's a little more hilly than I thought, so it's definitely going to be an interesting."
Here's what else he had to say to reporters during a Q&A session at Valhalla.
MODERATOR: Ken Green, joining us at the 72nd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. Ken, great to have you here for your second Senior PGA Championship. How have you feeling, number one and number two, I would imagine this is a special thing for you to be here this week to have the opportunity to play.
KEN GREEN: You have to say that spiel every time somebody gets up here?
MODERATOR: Pretty much. Yours is a little different.
KEN GREEN: No, I'm actually thrilled to be here. I'm a little concerned that -- I didn't realize this course was as long as it is and obviously the rain, it's going to be a little tough and it's a little more hilly than I thought, so it's definitely going to be an interesting, I don't want to say 36 holes, but to me this is the -- and I'm not taking anything away from the U.S. Senior Open, but this is the premier event on the Champions Tour and it's been around the longest, it's run, in my opinion, better than the USGA runs their events. The regular PGA always has been. And that's just my belief. But what was the other question? Oh, how I've been feeling. We're still struggling. The nerves just don't seem to want to settle down. I was telling my friend as we were driving in that I don't know if it's these wires that are here or something, but something on this course is setting my leg off. And it's a little confusing, because you never can tell -- I'm on a constant, I call it like being Tasered almost, it's a constant lower level of Taser and then it gets nasty where I basically act like I am Tasered. And so it's been a quite a journey.
If you had asked me a year ago would I -- I really thought I would be a lot better and I would be giving it as good as I'm ever going to get in this situation. I thought I would be here by now. Unfortunately, we're just going to have to wait it out and be patient, which as most of you know I'm not known for. So it's just how it is, you just have to deal with the bad. I mean it doesn't matter what it's about. It could be a small thing, I don't know, Sergio had a fingernail infection or something, or it could be my problems. Whatever it is, you have to deal with it.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Ken. Let's open it up for questions, please.
Q. Your motivation for doing this for coming back on the Tour for playing you're obviously being challenged in a lot of ways. Why are you doing it and is it therapy for you?
KEN GREEN: There's two main reasons and one of them I have to admit is a little bit being selfish. I want to play golf. There's just something that says that I -- I can't tell you how bad I want to play one good tournament. And what I mean by that is if I were to finish in the Top-20 in any Champions Tour event, I could walk away and smile and just be ecstatic and there's just something that's keeping telling me to do that. And the other reason is to try to do whatever I can for anybody who may be feeling down. All those kids that are, have lost their limbs from the war, they're young, I mean I'm old, I only got you know 20 years left or whatever it is, they have got the majority of their life left. I just think that it's got to give them a boost. That, hey, this is something that they can do. They can work at it hard enough and maybe they can actually be a professional golfer because I have not met one service member amputee who does not play golf now. They use golf as a way of their therapy to get them reinvolved and because it's, think about it, when you're that age, you know the possibility's there that you could die or you could lose limbs, but you never think it's going to be you.
And all of a sudden it happens to these guys and it's a tough thing to handle. And everyone of them has handled it so well. And I say, gosh, you know, I look at the pain that I've been going through in the last year and a half and I'm like, all right, you got to kind of, I don't know what the expression is, man up or Marine up or whatever it is, because it's beating me to death. I'm really losing juices. I just try to say, okay, you have to do this. You have to give your self a reason to do it to try to help anyone or anyone you can help. So those are the two main reasons I play.
Q. Talk about how much you have played recently or kind of what is, how much do you play now and then a little bit more about the course. Have you been out there? Have you played the course yet?
KEN GREEN: I got here Sunday morning figuring I would try to do nine and nine and then rest the body and you guys know the storms have been bad and the storms ripped my leg apart, so yesterday was the first time I got on the course and I only played six holes. So it's actually a better golf course than I thought. Because you hear some of the players talk about it and you never know, everybody has their own opinion on how things are, but in terms of how much I play, I think I played maybe four times since the Legends, so you can imagine, if you're really trying to become a good golfer, you can't do it once a week.
And now I -- and you're trying to modify a golf swing, so my expectation level's not very high. And I understand that. Trust me, I'll still get angry when I, you know, it's just that God didn't take that part away from me. And it's just part of you, it's amazing, you know it and then you make some mistakes and it's amazing how annoyed you get. I mean I'm really as ticked at the legend as I've been when I was a real person, quote unquote. But that's the great thing about competition and golf, it's just, it comes flying back at you. And your brain still says, you're good, you can still win. I mean I, there's a part of me that still says that I can pull off a win some day. That's kind of whacked.
Q. From what you gather is it just bad luck again that you're having this kind of pain because obviously a lot of people who go through your situation really they come out of it without that kind of pain and they're able to get on with their lives. Is there any hope that it will diminish do your doctors think?
KEN GREEN: Well, it is, you know, I think that my prosthetic has told me that I'm in about a two percent of amputees end up having as bad as I have it. So it does, you kind of go, "Oh, are you kidding me?" But I do believe, I've been told that two to two and a half years is crucial time that if you have it still past that you're probably going to be stuck with it for a long time. At this point they have not figured out what to do. I know that we have talked about do we cut more of the leg off to try to, because it's all at the bottom, the nerves that are firing, and you know, I mean that's -- I have no problem doing that, but I, part of me still wants to play some golf. And I don't know how good I can get if they keep, have to go farther up my leg.
And there's no guarantee that that would solve the problem. They do believe that because I had, the infections were so bad from the dreaded Mississippi swamp there, that that's probably been part of the reason why I caught that bad luck of the amputee draw.
Q. To what extent have you essentially had to re-learn the golf swing?
KEN GREEN: It's strange, because I've always been a fader of the ball and now we're trying to go right-to-left. So for 30 years I thought nothing but aim down the left and miss it, peel it off to the right. Kind of like a Bruce Lietzke type and now it's the other way around. And it's really hard training your brain to aim down the right side when you've been always going that way (Indicating) and how do you judge shots going into the green?
Now I have to stop and your angles of the swing change. I can't get the right stance and all that kind of stuff, that's been a little harder than I anticipated because just the slightest of hill like this place is they're all over the place, and if you watch me you'll see me I'm moving around like who is it? I don't mean to mention his name, but Sergio used to do the grip thing, you know that's kind of like me with my feet because I keep trying to put it in a spot to figure out how the hell I'm going to make this golf swing. So that's why I say if -- I believe I could have been there by now if I hadn't had this so much pain where I could get out on the golf course. Because I see some of these kids one kid told me he hits 500 balls a day. I'm like, are you kidding me? 500 balls? I didn't do that when I had real feet for Christ sakes, but I do believe that it can be done. I just, I still think my hand/eye coordination is still there, I didn't lose that, we just have to make those changes.
Q. Are you going to practice right after this and how are you going to practice? What are you going to do, presuming you are between now and tomorrow?
KEN GREEN: Well, I've actually just dropped off my driver I'm trying -- the one great thing about being a professional is that you can get your clubs changed right then that week to suit what's happening. My drivers are set to run because I don't have the swing I used to, so the only way I can get some distance is to make my ball roll. So now I have to find a driver that goes up because you you're not going to get any roll, period. So instead of flying it 230, I need to try to fly it 242 and stop it. And these holes are, Christ, they're long. I don't know how the PGA's going to set it up, but that earlier statement that I said about how good they usually are, you talk to me after and I'll let you know.
Q. You sort of answered it there, in terms of how far are you driving the ball now?
KEN GREEN: If I bomb a tee shot I can fly it about 245. And normally that equates to about 270, which isn't, you know on the Champions Tour some courses, some courses I can play, I really think that I can prey and get that Top-20 some day and just be ecstatic. And there's other courses that are just out of my league. This is, this is one of them. This is just, it's just because of the weather, it's just long.
Q. What kind of reception have you gotten from other players and fans at events you've been in?
KEN GREEN: Well the players have been great. I can't say enough for them. They have all helped me out quite a bit with financially and emotionally, they, everyone of them has said, don't worry about what you shoot, just, it's great to have you out here, be here. So there's a pride factor that we all have, like right now my biggest fear is don't embarrass myself, because I don't want to embarrass myself or the game of golf and I don't want anyone to think, what the hell is he doing here, he shouldn't be here. So that's always concerned me. But the players have eased that. The fans are, you know, I've always thought I was relatively good with fans, not maybe as good as someone like a Fuzzy is, but pretty open with them and they just, some of them look at me like, holy, what the hell's that? Because they don't know the story and they're like, well what's this guy doing here. And then somebody will tell them the story or they will ask me and it's a form of therapy for me.
When somebody comes up to me and says that, gosh, what you're doing is wonderful, I just, I think your tenacity is just fantastic, it gives me a little battery charge. And quite honestly, without anything, without a reason sometimes you end up getting depressed and some of you know my history, so I've got that depression in my body. So I'm, I don't know where I would be without a lot of the letters, the encouragement, I don't know if we would be talking, to be honest with you.
Q. Last January you were at the Teaching and Coaching Summit in Orlando?
KEN GREEN: I was good, wasn't I.
Q. You were good. Very good. You were with retired Lance Corporal Tim Lang and he's an amputee from war and when you closed your segment that day you made an impassioned plea to the teaching professionals in the audience to go back to their clubs and ask for membership possibilities of letting others into clubs who are under similar circumstances. Could you expound a little bit about that one, please.
KEN GREEN: Well, it's natural for human beings to forget. Oh, yeah, you know, people lose their legs or they lose their lives, but if it's not your circle, people forget. My belief was that if every club, every private club said, okay, we're going to take in four kids from the war that lost a limb, and let them play, that it's a home run. You're giving them a bonus for serving your country and I've yet to meet one person that wasn't a nice guy. They're far nicer than I ever was. They're polite and respectful and Tim Finchem would love those guys. He doesn't like me. He loves those guys.
And it's a no-brainer. It wouldn't cost the club anything. And it would be nothing but, it would show everybody how good these guys are in terms of being young men or women too, I don't mean to leave them out. But I haven't had one person contact me and say, yeah I went back and my members think that's a great idea. And it just, people are selfish and to me what seems like a no-brainer -- I'm going to go back to my home course in Danbury where I grew up and there's two courses there and I'm going to really push hard. And I don't know if there's even any kids in the area that have lost their legs, but if there is, they, you know, why not? It should be an automatic.
Q. I know you haven't really been feeling good enough to do it, but have you had any communication with, have Champions Tour events reached out to you and said, hey, if you're feeling up to it, we'll give you a sponsor's exemption. How has that gone, have you gotten any feed back?
KEN GREEN: I've been disappointed, to be honest with you. I really thought that the Champions Tour is about taking care of the customers, basically, the clients, and showing some good golf for the fans that do come out there. But -- and I think that I would be a good story, if you're going to draw somebody in a pro-am, and as much as I talk anyway, and then on top of my situation, I'm a perfect draw. And I got turned down six times and I was really, really just shocked by it. And the Legends moved me up into the A category this past year and Dick's Sporting Goods is the only one that has told me that if I want to play, that I'll have the spot.
And I don't know, I mean it's weird because when you look at some of the names that quote were given the spot, you know, believe me, I would rather say different words to you in how I express that, but I'm not giving up on it. The one thing that I have said is I don't want to go out there and play if I don't think I can at least break par one day or something. Here I'm not giving up a spot, I'm exempt, so that's, you know, I'm okay with that, I don't think I'm hurting anybody. But so I won't -- I'm hoping to be healthy, I'll see how this week goes and then maybe play the Dick's and then, but I'll keep, you know, things happen, so I didn't get those spots at those six events. I still will write them again and if they don't -- and hopefully next time around it works. And if it doesn't, then I'm giving you their damn names. (Laughter.)
Q. As kind of a follow-up to that, I'm wondering whether you have any exempt status for the Senior Open, whether have you any interest in playing in the Senior Open and if that's yes, have you preached the USGA about the use of a cart?
KEN GREEN: I would love to play in the Senior Open. Inverness, I played it, it's not that long. And I actually think I could be halfway decent at an Open because the scores are, they don't shoot 18-under par like they do in most Champions Tour events. I've actually looked at the qualifying sites as to where I would qualify, I know they have the right to give, let anybody in if they so desire, I hadn't really decided as to whether I would -- I don't think I would do that this year, because if I do ask them I would want to make sure that I'm healthier and that I can actually be as good as I can be.
So if I do it this year I would probably, I want to do it on my own and maybe the following year if I get healthier and start playing, then maybe I would ask them, because again, it's a good, it's a unique story, I don't want to say it's a good story because good things didn't happen, but I have to turn it into a good story. That's what you do when bad things happen.
MODERATOR: Ken Green, off tomorrow on the first tee at 2:20 p.m. Ken, thanks very much.
KEN GREEN: Okay. Thanks.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.