By Bill Fields
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- Ken Green is approaching two anniversaries. Five years ago next month, his recreational vehicle crashed, killing his brother, girlfriend and beloved dog and injuring his lower right leg so badly it had to be amputated. A year ago, Green was still plagued by such severe nerve pain in the limb that he contemplated suicide before another surgery last June - his 13th procedure -- finally lessened the discomfort.
"I can honestly tell you, I probably wouldn't have been here," Green, 55, said to a couple of reporters after the first round of the 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."
The procedure, performed by Dr. Ivica Duci at Georgetown University Hospital, turned Green's life around. "I'm in half the pain I was in last year," Green said. "That last surgery has really made life livable. When I say I'm in half the amount of pain, if you guys [had] this, you'd probably be screaming, [but] you learn to live with what you have to. I'm psyched to be in half the amount of pain."
Disappointingly for Green, he hasn't had much success gaining sponsor's exemptions into Champions Tour events in an attempt to "tell his story" and inspire others with disabilities. He said he's 0-for-12 in his latest attempts, but got a spot at Harbor Shores as a former United States Ryder Cup team member. The undulating Jack Nicklaus design was a tough challenge for Green, who opened with a nine-over 80.
"I heard the greens were off the charts. I didn't know Jack also did the fairways a litle bumpy," Green said. "For your average two-legged person, maybe they're not [that difficult], but for the one-legged yo-yo that I am, these fairways are nasty. It's discouraging. The one thing I didn't want to do is embarrass me or golf. I know it's not, but in my brain I feel like it is."
While Green, a five-time PGA Tour winner, used to play wearing colorful shoes to match his name, his personality now comes through with green tape wrapped around his prosthetic. "When you see me wearing the all-green shoes, you'll know I consider myself good again," he said. "That's the motivation I'm throwing out for myself."
Green was going to meet Thursday night with a boy suffering from brain cancer, to give him a pep talk, to tell him to keep fighting as Green has tried to do. What happened on that Mississippi highway never leaves him though. "That expression that time heals all wounds, to this point, is a crock," he said. "I still think everyday about everybody I've lost."Follow @BillFields1