TOLEDO — First of all, his caddie is a woman. OK? Not just any woman. His older sister. And she carries his bag all day.
This alone should tell you why Ken Green is my new favorite golfer. Unless you never had an older sister.
In which case, I’ll give you a few other reasons. Like the teddy bears on top of his club heads. Or his pet ferret — which is a fancy word for a rat, at least where I come from. Sometimes the ferret bites Ken on the hand, and in anger, he throws it against the wall. “Aww, they’re flexible,” he said.
Wait. There is more.
When he was 12, his family moved to Honduras — “the jungle,” he calls it. There he saw the first naked woman of his life, bathing in a river alongside the local golf course. This may explain why he went back so often.
Did I mention the two dogs he travels with?
He is 28, and has never held a job outside of golf. His first professional victory was at the Azalea Open. The Azalea? And then there is the last name, Green, which puts him in that exclusive group of people named for golf, including Archie Bunker, Jeremy Irons, Natalie Wood and Mister T(ee).
Ken (He’s On The) Green.
“I am best at being myself,” he said Thursday, after shooting an even-par 71 in the opening round of the PGA Championship.
“And what is that?” I asked.
“Casual,” he said.
Did I mention the dogs stay in his hotel room? When he’s mad, ‘Gaaaauuoy!’
But wait. Let’s get back to this sister thing. Really. This stuns me. I have dreamed about my older sister carrying my clubs. Or even my car keys. I would be happy if she held the door open for me.
Yet Ken Green has done it. Shelley Green happily lugs around her younger brother’s bag — the only regular female caddie on the tour. She does not play golf. She offers no advice. Once, three years ago — her first time caddying
— she saw her brother get upset after misplaying a hole.
“Relax,” she said, as sisters will do. “You’ll get the next one.”
“Don’t you ever say that again,” Ken snapped.
And she never has.
Now, older sisters are not usually so agreeable. Older sisters will bait you into dumping your father’s stamp collection in the toilet, so they can watch you die.
But the Greens are a different breed. They dress alike. They spend most of their spare time together. They shared the thrill of his first (and so far only) tour victory — the Buick Open in 1985 — and commiserated after he blew the lead on the first day of the Masters in April.
“I’d rather have Shelley than any guy,” he said.
So I like him for that. And because he used to sneak onto golf courses as a teenager, hiding behind trees until the holes cleared.
And because he screams “Gaaaauuoy!” when he messes up a shot.
Did I mention the time he drove all the way to Toronto to play in the Canadian Open, only to realize he’d forgotten to enter?
You have to admire that kind of concentration. A man of pocket-size dreams
So this is my kind of guy. Ken Green. He’s not a bad golfer, either. He was two under for most of Thursday’s round, before dropping a couple of strokes. So what if he likes toy animals? Golf can use a little color, what with all those clones that seem to have spilled out of a hair-spray can.
Here is another reason I like Ken Green. Maybe the main reason. He does not dream of being the greatest golfer in the world. “Nobody will do it better than Nicklaus anyhow,” he said.
No. His dreams are more pocket-size. They need stretch no further than the rubber band that circles a newspaper.
“This is gonna sound strange,” he said, “but when I die, it’ll be in the Connecticut newspapers because I’m from there.
“But I dream of it being in the California newspapers, and in Hawaii and Florida. Then, obviously, I’ll have done something in golf. Something worth remembering — even if it’s just for having a female caddie. Hey. I’ll take that.”
He sighed. “Maybe I’ll stage my own death,” he said, his eyes widening.
“Yeah. When I’m 60 years old I’ll jump out of an airplane and people will think I bit the bullet. Then I can read the newspapers and see if my dream came true!”
“And if it didn’t?” I asked.
“Then . . . ” he said. “I make a comeback.”
I’d buy a ticket to that. If he brings his sister. CUTLINE Ken Green