Scottish amateur golfer Green, 80, dies

Scottish golf has lost a true legend with the death of Charlie Green, who has died of cancer at age 80.

Green arguably was the best amateur ever to come out of the Home of Golf. Born in Dumbarton, Scotland, in 1932, Green played in five Walker Cups from 1963 to '73, captained the side in 1983 and '85, won three Scottish Amateur Championships, six British Senior Amateur Championships and won the silver medal as leading amateur in the 1962 Open Championship at Troon.

Cardross Golf Club west of Glasgow was Green’s home club for most of his life. He reached the top despite conceding he “couldn’t hit a barn door” when he first started playing as a boy. Yet he turned himself into a champion.

Green played on only one victorious Walker Cup team, in 1971 at St. Andrews. The Scot won two matches and lost two matches as Great Britain & Ireland defeated the U.S., 13-11.

The likes of Michael Bonallack, Joe Carr, Ronnie Shade, Peter Oosterhuis and Howard Clark were just some of the names with whom Green played on Walker Cup teams. He played against U.S. Walker Cup sides featuring Lanny Wadkins, Vinny Giles, Gary Koch, Steve Melnyk, Tom Kite, Deane Beman, Billy Joe Patton and Bruce Fleisher. He captained Colin Montgomerie, Garth McGimpsey, Peter McEvoy, Philip Walton, Philip Parkin, Peter Baker and David Gilford among others.

I had the pleasure of playing with Green when he was in his mid 60s. At the time he was employed by Loch Lomond Golf Club to play with members and occasionally members of the press. He shot a 1-under 71 that day despite having to watch myself and two other scribes find places on the Loch Lomond course Green never knew existed.

If he was perturbed at having to play with us, then he did a good job of hiding it. He was a delight to play with. I remember a man with a powerful, natural swing who could still shift it despite his age.

He was old-school, too. One of my colleagues was intrigued at a high pitch shot Green played with a sand wedge, a 56-degree club, not a modern 60-degree wedge. He hit the ball high into the air and it landed about a foot from the flag and stopped dead. When one of my colleagues asked Charlie how he’d played the shot, he got less of an answer than he’d hoped for.

“I just opened the face wide and hit it as hard as I could,” was Charlie’s simple answer. It was clear he wasn’t one for delving too deeply into the opaque world of swing instruction.

About five years ago, Golfweek featured Green as a "Local Legend" in our annual Amateur Issue. I called him at his home near Cardross for an interview, and he told me he’d just added a new club to his golf bag, a 5-wood. He said he didn’t hit his 2-iron well enough to keep it in his bag. He’d retired it to sit beside the 1-iron he’d taken out of commission a few years earlier. Few thirtysomething professionals these days can hit a 2-iron, never mind an amateur in his 70s.

Green never considered a career in the pro game because the opportunities that exist today just weren’t there in his prime. Had times been different, he might have gone on to become one of Scotland’s greatest professionals. Instead he’ll be fondly remembered as one of Scotland’s greatest amateurs, probably the best of the 20th century.

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