Ken Green Keeps Knocking It Down the Fairway

Ken Green Hunter of Hope

Connecticut professional golfer Ken Green is still standing tall these days, thanks to the use of a prosthetic right leg. He vowed after the accident that occurred in Mississippi in 2009 while travelling to and from golf tournaments that he would once again swing a golf club in competition, even as he lay in a hospital bed after doctors had removed the lower portion of his right leg.

Well, Green, who lives part time in the Nutmeg State and Florida, made good on that vow and built himself physically and mentally to return to competitive golf, playing in Champions Tour, regional and state tournaments. And, playing well, we might add, with his low score being a 69 on the Champions Tour, a laudable score for any golfer let alone one playing with a prosthetic leg to go along with the physical and emotional scars that Green carries with him every day. He finished fourth at the Connecticut Senior Open at Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton in 2019, and tied for second at both the 2018 and 2016 state Senior opens.

Masters, first round 1986. Made 22-footer for par and 300 feet of putts in one day- best putting round ever at The Masters

“I’ve have had so many crazy things happen to me,” said Green, who splits his time between West Palm Beach, Florida and New Fairfield. “I guess it’s the Ken Green reverse one percent law. I don’t think many people have had things happen to me, good and bad, like I have.”

Green was born in Danbury and moved to Honduras with his family where his father, Martin Green, whom he claimed was an alcoholic, was principal of the American School in that country. Having to choose between soccer and golf, young Green chose the latter and he wound up quitting school at the age of 16, telling his mother that he wanted to pursue his dream of playing professionally.

He wound up finishing his high school education and attending Palm Beach Junior College in Florida for a year before he was recruited to play for the University of Florida, earning second team All-Southern Conference honors in 1979. Green indeed did turn professional in 1979 and joined the PGA Tour the following year. He became a proficient player, known for his all-out style of play and fierce competiveness. He posted five wins on the PGA Tour, lost two tournaments in playoffs, and captured five international events. His selection to the U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1989 was a highlight of his career. Even after his life and golf game began to break down in the late 80’s and 1990’s, Green could occasionally rise up. He finished seventh at the 1996 U.S. Open.

“I had a great run during the 1980’s and I felt like I was getting better every year,” said Green, now 61. “I was winning tournaments on the PGA Tour, was on the Ryder Cup team, and winning overseas, which I am equally as proud of as my wins in the states. I would love to have been able to see what I was capable of if I didn’t lose my focus. I was still young and probably had another six or seven really good years ahead of me when things broke down.” Green’s sister, Shelley, caddied for him for several years while on Tour.

“Things broke down”, he said, because of a nasty divorce with his first wife and losing custody of his children. He began drinking more than socially, gambling, fell into the deep hole of depressions, started missing cuts and continuing to pile up fines from the PGA Tour. He had over two dozen fines levied  against him, some of them for seemingly rather silly and harmless antics, like sneaking friends into The Masters in the trunk of his car, toasting Arnold Palmer with a beer while playing in The Masters, swearing on the course, burying or flinging into the water several putters, and signing autographs for fans while playing.

In June 2009, Green was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident when his motor home left the road. Green was in his recreational vehicle traveling on Interstate 20 near Meridian, Mississippi 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. The following year his estranged son, Hunter, died of a drug overdose in Dallas, Texas.

Green used golf as a way to keep himself going, although his journey back to the golf course was one filled with pain and long hours of therapy and rehab. But back he came, the guy whose life has had more twists and turns than a double dogleg hole. He was fitted with a prosthetic and basically taught himself how to play the game again. He began hitting balls on the range, playing practice rounds and then got himself fit enough that he was able to play several events on the Champions Tour, as well as local and regional events. Green authored a book released in 2019 entitled, Hunter of Hope: Life In, Outside and on the Ropes, in which he details his life in honest fashion, the good and the bad. “The book gave me the opportunity to show what I went through and maybe it can help people out there that have gone through or are going through similar things as I have; the loss of a son, a nasty marriage and divorce, depression,  and the tragic accident. I can give my point of view and maybe help people and get them back on the right track. If I can do it then people reading the book may say that they can do the same thing.”

When at his home in New Fairfield, Green spends much of his golfing time at Danbury’s Richter Park Golf Course and Ridgewood Country Club, “courses that I grew up playing.” He added, “The pros around the state are very kind to me, probably because I was a former Tour pro, and I can play pretty much anywhere I’d like.”