HARTFORD, Conn. – Danbury native Ken Green never ceases to amaze.
Just weeks after the release of his book that revealed sexual abuse as a kid growing up in Honduras, Green shot a 4-under-par 31 on the back nine for a 4-under 67 that put him in second place, two strokes behind Robin Byrd, after the first round of the Connecticut Senior Open at Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton.
After carding one birdie and one bogey on the front side, Green birdied the 10th, 11th, 17th and 18 holes to take the lead in a 156-man field that competed in glorious playing conditions, especially on the relatively new holes along the Thames River and Long Island Sound.
But Byrd, of Satellite Beach, Fla., had an even more stirring finish of birdie-par-birdie-eagle to pass Green and tie the course record. Byrd bogeyed the first hole, but birdies at Nos. 5 and 6 enabled him to shoot 1-under 35 on the front nine. A back-side 30 included an eagle 3 at the 18th hole, birdies at Nos. 10, 11, 15 and 17 and a lone bogey at the 14th hole.
Green, who tied for second last year with amateur Glen Boggini at 2-under, continues to play with a prosthetic on the lower part of his right leg that had to be amputated after the was involved in a horrific recreational vehicle accident 10 years ago that killed his brother, girlfriend and dog. Green has openly discussed the highs and lows of a turbulent life that includes the accident and bouts with depression that caused him to contemplate suicide.
But what hadn’t been revealed in depth was his youthful days in Honduras that came to light in his book, “Hunter of Hope: A Life Lived Inside, Outside and On the Ropes.” The raw, emotional and uniquely charming memoir is dedicated to his son, Hunter, who committed suicide at 21 via a drug overdose on Jan. 22, 2010, while in his dorm room during his sophomore year at Southern Methodist University.
Green was born in Danbury but started playing golf at 12 in Honduras, where his father, Martin “Marty” Green, was principal of The American School and his only choices of sports were golf or soccer. Ken quit school at 16 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional tour player after reported issues with sexual abuse by his father.
Green, who turns 59 on July 23, struggled for several years before he qualified for the PGA Tour, where he had five victories and was a member of the 1989 U.S. Ryder Cup Team. He has played a limited number of PGA Tour Champions events in large part to being unable to get sponsors’ exemptions to tournaments to play and to try to help others who have had tragedies happen in their lives.
Green is also playing in the Connecticut Open that is being playing for the first time on the weekend at Torrington Country Club on Friday through Sunday. He won the second biggest golf tournament in the state behind the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship in 1985 and 1992.
Jeff Dantas, of Seekonk, Mass., bogeyed two of the first five holes and then made a major rally spiced by an eagle 3 on the eighth hole that led to a 68 and third place. He also birdied the seventh, 12th, 17th and 18th holes to offset a bogey at No. 10.
Byrd, Green and Dantas were the only players to finish under par. A 10-way tie for fourth at 71 included former PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions Bobby Gage of New Britain, Jan Wivestad in Watertown, Billy Downes of Longmeadow, Mass., Peter Walsh of North Kingstown, R.I., Dave Fusco of Goshen, N.Y., Charlie Bolling of Glen Cove, N.Y., Michael Diffley of Pelham Manor, N.Y., Mo Guttman of Sarasota, Fla., and amateurs David Baker of Branford and Jim Romaniello of Stamford.
Seventy-three players who shot 75 or better qualified for the final round Tuesday. The total purse is $24,900, with the low pro earning $3,500 and the low amateur receiving $300 in merchandise credit.
The 43rd championship for those 50 years and older is being played at Shennecossett GC for the 22nd consecutive year. The event has a great tradition and attracts some of the top professionals and amateurs from all over the country.