June 9, 2009

"When is Kenny going to catch a break?"

Ken Green's entire career has been defined by hard luck, but nothing compares to what he confronted this week

Ken Green had finally had found some traction on the Champions Tour before his accident.

Ken Green had finally had found some traction on the Champions Tour before his accident.

In between outbreaks of tears, and emotional phone calls, the humor of Ken Green has been poking through all the pain of the past 48 hours for the Champions Tour golfer.

So says Kevin Richardson, his manager and close personal friend, who has been at Green's bedside at University Hospital in Jackson, Miss., since Tuesday evening.

"Still has his wits," Richardson said.

Green is recovering from a horrific crash that killed his brother, Billy, his girlfriend, Jeannie, and the dog he once risked his life for, Nip. The main concern is still for Green's leg, which was mangled in the collision. One of the calls he made Tuesday was to his brother's, daughter, Nicole. They were described as inseparable brothers, with Billy driving the cart as Green's caddie. Jeannie had been with him since a career-shattering divorce and child custody battle in the early nineties.

While he lays in bed, wondering if he'll ever be able to walk again, the physical damage may still be easier to overcome. There is a six-inch laceration on the left-hand side of his head, held together by sutures, but ophthalmologists examining Green said here was no internal damage to his eye. A sub-orbital fracture will need surgery in 10 days, but the right leg has a left distal tibia fracture and is being monitored for infection. "The right leg is the issue," Richardson said.

Richardson also said that for the second straight day, Green is saying he was not behind the wheel of his RV when a tire blew out, sending their vehicle down a bank on Interstate 20 outside Meridian, Miss., Monday afternoon at 1:30 local time. Original reports also had Green going through the windshield. "He told us again today, it was Billy who was driving," said Richardson, as he left the accident scene with Green's brother-in-law, PGA Tour rules official Slugger White. "Ken does not remember where he was found, whether outside or inside the RV. He was in the back and he feels he would be dead if he was up front."

The tree they hit, estimated to be 30 yards off the highway, and three feet in diameter, was snapped over. Richardson said much of area was in standing water, with one of the balls Green's German Shepherd, Nip, used to fetch, still floating.

In 2003, Green jumped into a canal behind his home in West Palm Beach CC., to save Nip from the jaws of an alligator when he was chasing down a ball much like the one at the crash site. The heart and compassion was as much a statement of his reputation on tour as his bad luck.

"When is Kenny going to catch a break?" swing instructor Peter Kostis said in a text message.

While he was never the most ingratiated tour player at tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Green's unfortunate circumstances still struck a nerve. Richardson received a call from Ross Berlin of the tour to say that a trust fund has been established in Green's name.

On the day of the crash, Green was bragging to close friend Mark Calcavecchia that he had made enough money on the Champions Tour this year to qualify for the pension fund. From his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fl. Calcavecchia acknowledged, "Ken has had to battle so many things in life and he's overcome a hell of a lot. He's always fought the demons, as he calls them."

Already diagnosed with depression, in the hole financially -- the Palm Beach Post reported his home was seized by the IRS in 2005 -- one thing Green didn't do was burn all his bridges. "Kenny Green, regardless of what you say about him, has a huge heart," said long-time supporter, local Dodge dealer Jimmy Arrigo. "He was the kind of guy who if he had a lot, he'd make sure the people around him had what they needed. Over the years he was never portrayed that way."