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January 27, 2010 6:20 AM

Tragedy Visits Golfer Ken Green -- Again

ken green.jpgAs I was tooling around all the likely sites looking for fodder for today's golf offering, my clicker-finger froze when it got to this slate-gray offering from the Associated Press:

DALLAS (AP) -- Hunter Green, the son of former professional golfer Ken Green, was found dead in his dorm room at Southern Methodist University last week, authorities said.

SMU officials said the body of a student was found about 12:30 p.m. Friday. The Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Tuesday that the student was Green, 21, a sophomore. Campus officials said no foul play was involved and an investigation is under way.

It's the second family tragedy in eight months for Ken Green, who won five PGA Tour events between 1985-89 and played on the 1989 Ryder Cup team. Green (pictured) had his lower right leg amputated last summer after a recreational vehicle accident in which his brother and girlfriend were killed.

Green acknowledged his son's death on his personal blog Tuesday.

"Well, today is another sad day," he said. "I'm sorry to say that my youngest son, Hunter, has passed. His journey in life has ended and I can't tell you how difficult understanding this is."

Green earned about $3.7 million and 44 top 10 finishes on the regular tour before a bout with depression nearly derailed his career. He has talked of critical children's voices in his head that scuttled his concentration and left him contemplating suicide as he struggled to stay on the tour.

He lost his Tour card in 2000 and coped with financial problems between 2005 and 2008, the year he turned 50.

Green joined the Champions Tour for older players that year and played well. He was 54th on the money list with $123,906 in 11 appearances in 2009 before the accident.

In June, Green was traveling in the back of an RV driven by his brother when a tire blew out. The RV went off the road, down an embankment and crashed into a large oak tree.

Fellow pros gathered for an event in September to raise money to pay some of his medical and personal expenses, including Fred Funk, Curtis Strange, Mark Calcavecchia and Phil Blackmar. Green said then that he wanted to rejoin the Champions Tour in 2010.

Honestly, I'm not sure why this one made such an impression on me. There are stories sort of like this all over the place, and every day.
My gosh, in Haiti alone they are coming at us a mile a minute.

Maybe this one zinged me because I am Green's age, and remember the guy during his heyday in the late-80s and early-90s when, as the release says, he was a regular winner on tour and played in that Ryder Cup.
Or maybe it's because all of us could use a good dose of perspective from time to time, and remember -- borrowing from Walter Hagen -- that it is never too late to stop and smell the roses.
Me? I am lucky to have a bouquet of 'em in my life.

Green was never a guy who seemed able to stay out of his own way.
Check that: Green was never a guy who wanted to stay out of his own way.

Every time Green went up he seemed to come down again. His landings didn't used to be as hard as they have been over the past year or so, though.

Green was a practical joker, troublemaker, and a loudmouth on tour. He was always being fined for some sort of infraction. He drank a beer while playing with Arnold Palmer in the Masters. Then there was the time he sneaked a bunch of his buddies into the Masters in the trunk of his car. He was always playing trick shots out of hotel windows, clubhouses and the like...
The movie Tin Cup with Kevin Costner, was a G-rated version of Ken Green. 

On a tour full of close-to-the-vest, cookie-cutter personalities Green singularly broke the mold. I admit to liking the dude for that, even if he did go too far sometimes.

I remember he was best buddies with Calcavecchia, who also marched to the beat of a different drummer. Both guys were extremely accessible, and if you were a young reporter looking for a quote, they were pure gold.
Their lack of pretentiousness was heartening, but there was a darkness to Green that you couldn't quite put your finger on.

Turns out Green was fighting his own inner demons, and was diagnosed with depression in the late-90s. Green talked about hearing voices in his head on the golf course. He said it got to the point where he couldn't pull the club back.
But he fought back and things starting looking up for him again.
I was glad when I heard he was out there on the Champion's Tour last year and playing well. Maybe, I thought, this time around the guy will really enjoy himself and make the most of things.

Then he lost part of his leg and part of his family in that awful, awful accident.
Now he has lost a son.

Today I gained perspective, but like Green, I have trouble understanding any of it.

(Photo, Palm Beach Post)

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