HARTFORD, Conn – Ken Green, a Danbury-native, has always been a straight shooter, especially after the tragic recreational vehicle accident in 2009 that killed his brother, girlfriend and dog and led to the eventual amputation of the lower part of his right leg.
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. But that changed in the recent release of 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, winner of five PGA Tour events and a member of the 1989 U.S. Ryder Cup Team, 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.
“Now you know the ugly story of me and Honduras,” Green, who turns 58 on July 23, said on his blog. “When I decided to write the book, I was first cautioned by the few I had told the story to to not put that in the book. They said, ‘You have enough of a story in your life.’ They were right there, but I was adamant that if I’m going to write a semi-bio on me, I had to tell the story. Then they didn’t want me to be so descriptive as the book is.
“I firmly believe people don’t always think it’s as nasty as it can be. Maybe just some fondling and small stuff. Not the hard, brutal physical beatings and sex acts that are just grotesque. I’m truly sorry I went into such detail if some are offended, but I really think the only way I can fight to make a difference is to explain how awful it is. I’m trying to push many into showing their true colors of whether they really want to do something to help change our lenient laws or just pretend they do.”
Green said a perfect example is how he was misled by The Golf Channel and NBC Sports top executives who told him they were going to help him in every way possible. Green was to be on “Morning Golf & Go” and proceed from there and keep helping him. But, according to Green, a top executive “flat out lied” and then refused to tell Green why they would not run any story in my book on Honduras.
“Was it ego, pride, fear, money loss or God knows because I don’t,” said Green, who turns 59 on July 23. “I can only hope and pray that one of their kids or grand kids never ever gets caught in that ugly web. I’m forever changed, and I can’t believe for the better. How can a liberal channel who often preaches to us about political correctness not want to help. This executive is a member of a men’s-only club. Hypocrisy at its finest. They don’t want to help fight sexual abuse. Of course, they will spin it if someone ever calls them out like the corporate world does.
“Let’s forget he lied and ‘boned’ me, but how on earth do these people live with themselves? They really do live in their bubble. It’s The Golf Channel, and they talk about golfers. They had no problem using me and my story when the accident happened. They ran a well-done piece then, but this time it’s not news worthy. They have lost me, not that they care a hoot. I will never be able to help get laws changed if I don’t sell books because we all know it takes money to make change.
“I will spend every dime I make (on the book) if I can change something in the legal world regarding sexual abuse. I really need help in passing this all over social media. Plus, it’s a really good book, so I’m told, but I believe it. I’m told it ranges from laughter to anger to tears to inspiration, so it can’t be all that bad.”
Five years ago next month, Green’s recreational vehicle crashed, and a year ago, he was still plagued by such severe nerve pain in his leg that he contemplated suicide before another surgery in June, his 13th procedure, finally lessened the discomfort.
“I can honestly tell you, I probably wouldn’t have been here,” Green told reporters during the 2018 Senior PGA Championship. “I’m not going to say I had a plan and I was going to do x, y or z, but I was really losing. They say everyone comes to that wall. I was reaching that point of collapse.”
Sadly, Green has received only a handful of sponsors’ exemptions on the PGA Tour Champions in his attempt to “tell his story” and inspire others with disabilities. While Green used to play wearing colorful shoes to match his name, his personality now comes through with green tape wrapped around his prosthetic.
The slights by most Tour events likely stems from Green having a reputation for rebelliousness and a propensity to pull stunts earlier in his career. He has had more than two dozen fines levied by the PGA Tour for his “bad boy” antics, which included sneaking friends into the Masters in the trunk of his car, drinking beer on the course while playing with Arnold Palmer at the 1997 Masters and hitting golf balls through narrow openings in sliding-glass doors. Other fines were for more mundane offenses such as swearing on the course, criticizing officials and signing autographs while playing.
Green’s personal problems – divorces, gambling, clinical depression – led to near financial ruin and affected his playing time and the quality of his play. While in his 40s, Green had difficulty maintaining his PGA Tour playing privileges and was forced to play some on the Nationwide Tour.
But despite the limited support from the PGA Tour Champions, Green has often met with people with various injuries and ailments to give them a pep talk and tell them to keep fighting as he has tried to do. But what happened on that Mississippi highway never leaves him.
“That expression that time heals all wounds, to this point, is a crock,” Green said. “I still think every day about everybody I’ve lost.”
But it has never stopped Green from trying to be himself, no matter how painful. In 2003, he jumped into a canal in Palm Beach County, Fla., to save his German Shepherd dog, Nip, from an alligator. The horrific RV accident occurred in June 2009 when his motor home left the road as he was traveling on Interstate 20 near Meridian, Miss., when the right front tire blew, causing the vehicle to veer off the road and go down a deep embankment before hitting a tree. The accident killed the passengers: William Green, his brother; Jeanne Hodgin, his girlfriend; and his dog, Nip. Even though his lower right leg was amputated as a result of injuries suffered in the accident, Green vowed to return to competitive golf.
Green did just that, playing a limited schedule and in local tournaments, including the Connecticut Senior Open and the Connecticut Open that he won in 1985 and 1992. He is playing in the Senior Open on Monday and Tuesday at Shennecosset GC in Groton and the State Open at Torrington CC on July 19-21.
While many folks haven’t appreciated Green’s style, two-time Greater Hartford Open champion Paul Azinger called him “the most courageous man in the world” during a segment on The Golf Channel in 2017.
CBS golf analyst Peter Kostis has as good a feel for Green as anyone after becoming his coach in the early 1980s.
“In our 30-plus-year relationship, there are plenty of highs, and unfortunately just as many lows,” Kostis said. “Ken was never one to be politically correct and could easily infuriate some people. As complicated as his life has been, I can tell you without hesitation, throughout everything, that he has always told the truth and he always had a huge heart. That’s why I call him my friend.”
Mark Calcavecchi, a 13-time PGA Tour winner and the 1989 British Open champion, has been Green’s friend for decades, including joining force with him to create the charitable CalGreen Foundation.
“In my opinion, Ken has been dealt some brutal cards over the years,” Calcavecchi said. “I admire the fight that he continues to show us all every day. Ken will tell you the truth no matter what. It’s one of his strongest personality traits. Some of it you may want to hear, and some of it you may not. Some of it is just downright funny as hell. Sometimes I wonder what planet he’s on. But all in all, it’s coming from the heart, his heart.”
That’s a brilliant view of Green in a nutshell and the overall theme of his book, which deals with heartbreak and tragedy and can be purchased for $24.95.