Touring professional Ken Green has battled clinical depression, deep debt, sleeping and eating disorders, crying and drinking bouts and too many demons over the years.
“I released the demons last year,” Green said in a candid 2003 interview. “I just want to make sure I don’t allow any more demons back inside.”
But now Green, 50, is in his toughest battle of all, his tortured soul having taken a sad turn June 8 on a patch of Interstate 20 near Meridian, Miss. Green suffered severe leg and eye injuries in a accident that killed longtime girlfriend Jeanne Hodgin, 52, his brother Bill Green, 56, and the golfer’s German shepherd, Nip.
The RV blew a right front tire and hit a tree, according to the police report obtained by the Meridian Star, which cited witnesses. Green was taken to a nearby hospital and then flown to University Medical Center in Jackson.
Green underwent surgery on his mangled lower right leg, a procedure that lasted more than three hours Monday night and into Tuesday morning, his agent, lawyer Kevin Richardson, said June 10 via telephone from the accident site. Doctors listed Green in stable condition, Richardson said, adding that the golfer is in a “leg-threatening but not life-threatening” situation. He is expected to remain hospitalized for several weeks.
“The good news is, his right foot has a pulse and blood is flowing,” said Slugger White, the PGA Tour vice president for rules and competitions who married Green’s sister, Shelley. “The hope is that they can save the leg.”
Green was “very emotional” and crying in his hospital bed Wednesday morning when talking about the loss of his brother and girlfriend, Richardson said. “But thank goodness he was crying out of both eyes,” he said. He was referring to a positive report that Green can see out of his fractured left eye and suffered no internal damage.
Green was coherent and showed flashes of his typical humor in the room, White and Richardson said. “Unfortunately you can’t publish what he said, but that’s Ken,” Richardson said. “But he did draw laughs from a couple of nurses.”
Jon Kalahar, a spokesman with the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper of Jackson that Green was not wearing a seat belt. White said his understanding was that Green went through the windshield at impact.
According to the Meridian Star, Sgt. Malachi Sanders of the Mississippi Highway Patrol indicated Green was driving the RV, but the golfer’s agent said Green told him that brother Bill was the driver.
“It doesn’t make any difference, because nobody could’ve controlled that RV,” Richardson said. “Nobody. Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t have controlled that thing.”
Mark Calcavecchia, a longtime friend of Green’s and a fellow touring pro, and Peter Kostis, Green’s instructor, described the leg surgery as extensive.
Doctors “operated all night to try to save the leg,” Kostis said. “It was mangled below the knee. Now we’ve got to hope and pray the leg is OK.”
The day before the accident, Green tied for 37th in the Champions Tour’s Triton Financial Classic in Austin, Texas. Soon after Green left Austin en route to North Carolina, he sent Calcavecchia a text message that read, “12 miles down, 1,200 to go.” Calcavecchia sent one back that read in part, “Take it easy, take it slow and drive safely.”
Shaken by the irony, Calcavecchia said the day after the crash, “That’s the last thing I said to him. This is all hard to believe. All of a sudden a tire blows and everything changes. For that to happen after all he’s gone through, it’s so sad.
“He was really starting to feel really good. He’s always battled the demons, but now this happens just when there was some light. It’s the first light he’s seen at the end of the tunnel in 15-20 years, and then he ultimately gets slammed on.
“Now what’s he going to do? You start thinking about what pain he’s in, but think about what he’ll go through mentally. I can’t imagine.”
Kostis had similar thoughts.
“If there ever was someone who needed a break, it’s him,” Kostis said. “But, hell, he never got it. How much pain does somebody have to go through?”
Two of Green’s contemporaries on Tour, Tom Pernice Jr. and Bob Tway, were pensive when approached by Golfweek at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn.
“Life is short, and you never know what is going to hit you,” Pernice said, “so you’ve got to feel blessed for the days you have here. He’s had a lot of bad luck in his life, and hopefully he’ll get through this.
“He could always play. We just have to pray for him now.”
Tway reflected on Green’s “hard luck” and added: “It’s just not fair.”
Kostis, like Calcavecchia, said Green’s spirits were finally up after years of tough times.
After Green finished seventh in March at the AT&T Champions Classic in Valencia, Calif., “he started feeling better about himself,” Kostis said. “Mentally he was getting back in control of his golf game on the course and starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
In his first full year on the over-50 tour, Green has one top 10 in 11 starts. He has earned $123,906 this year after making $22,911 in seven 2008 events.
Green, a colorful and controversial character, won five PGA Tour titles and earned a Ryder Cup berth in the late 1980s.
But in the early 1990s he lost his marriage and custody of his two boys, and his life spiraled downward. He was diagnosed with clinical depression, and he lost his game and all of his money. In 2003, he said he was about $200,000 in debt to the “IRS and various people” thanks largely to monthly $10,000 support payments early on.
“I lost my brain,” he said of those dark days. “(But) I started enjoying the battle of life about (in 2001). Life is all about challenge and fight.”
Green got through 2002 PGA Tour Q-School but never got back on track. A tie for 25th was his best finish in seven 2003 Tour starts, and he made only four cuts and $43,356 in 18 starts the next year.
Hodgin, his girlfriend, and Nip, his dog, were bright spots during his trials. During that 2003 session, he brightened when talking about both.
“She is absolutely devoted to me,” Green said then of Nip. “She’s the only female who has ever been devoted to me.”