Area Golf: Green finishes competitive career in style
BREEZY POINT - The Mizuno blade connected purely with the ball, sending it spiraling over a tree guarding the first green of the Whitebirch Golf Course.
With a light fade working the shot left to right, the ball descended from the cloudy June sky and landed three feet from the hole.
After the tap-in birdie landed in the bottom of the cup, Guy Green and Cole Bliss celebrated their second-place finish and share of the $800 purse in the third annual Breezy Cup.
The 115-yard wedge that allowed Green and Bliss to finish behind this year's champions Riley Johnson and Nevin Green, who fired a 4-under 68 to capture the Gary Goerges designed trophy, was struck by Green and will likely be his last competitive golf shot.
"I really wanted to be able to make a statement with that wedge on the playoff hole," said Green. "I had the perfect yardage, and Cole simply said, 'Just knock it stiff and let's end it right here.' I figure I owed him at least that much for blasting 300-yard drives all day long. I'll remember that shot, and the young men I played with, especially, of course, my grandson, Trevor, forever. It was a good day at the course."
Since he picked up a club at the age of six, Green has left an indelible mark on the game of golf at both a national and local level. Chosen by Minnesota Golf Association Executive Director Warren Rebholz to be part of a two-man team that rated every course in the state for the USGA Slope Handicap System, Green was brought on as Assistant Executive Director of the MGA in 1984. He is currently serving as director of the Northern Section of MGA's Senior Tour. He also is caddying at the Classic at Madden's Resort in East Gull Lake.
"I'm a golf character, and that's all I've ever aspired to be" said Green, who once had a 6 handicap during the prime of his playing career in the 1970s and 80s.
For one last shot, Green looked like his old self as his shot helped his team better Cole Humphrey and Jette Zeisemer for runner-up honors in the playoff. Both teams shot even-par 72s during regulation.
The pairing of current Pequot Lakes golfers Samantha Olmscheid and Jackson Goerges shot 74 for fourth. Tim Thorson and this writer carded a 75 to tie with Ethan Neitzke and Green's grandson Trevor Schulz for fifth.
Jonah Lelwica and Andrew Blaeser carded a 76 for seventh, while Nick Greiner and Jack Peterson rounded out the placing with an 85.
For Green, the Breezy Cup was bittersweet. His days of competitive and recreational golf are likely behind him.
"My spine has devolved into a dry twig that no wetting agents can alleviate," he said. "It isn't my hitting anyone with an errant puff ball that has my attorneys worried. It's parts flying off of me like shrapnel that keeps them up at nights."
Green's career is littered with highlights, including winning the two-man best ball Jimmy Finley Classic at his home course, Highland Park, in St. Paul, during the 1970s with his late friend, Dennis Kispert.
"Dennis was putting so well that day that I wrote him a check for a million dollars following the round, and captioned it as 'One dollar for every foot of putts he had made that weekend,'' Green said. "Oddly enough, he never cashed it."
Green also won the Hopin' Open at Wapicada Golf Course in Sauk Rapids in the same decade, with a score of 320. The Hopin' Open was a 72-hole tournament that took place in a single day. The players were not allowed carts or caddies. He played all four rounds with a single ball in 40 mph winds. He also carded an 84 at Pebble Beach, featuring a front nine tally of 36.
"God forgot to add the wind until the back nine," he said. "He really overcompensated on that inward nine, but, He is The Man, after all. I've also won a few bar tournaments and local events, but I've found my greatest success in golf in the people I've met throughout my career."
Those people include Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Byron Nelson, to name a few. He treasures his association with Rebholz, who, though closing in on 90, still plays golf regularly and well.
"Rebbie might have questioned his decision to bring me on that first week," Green said. "The first thing we did was head to the meeting of the International Association of Golf Administrators, down in Florida. Rebbie stuck me in the first row, with instructions to take copious notes, at a rules seminar conducted by the terrifying P.J. Boatwright, USGA legend. Mr. Boatwright told the story of an unusual penalty administered at the U.S. Senior Open at Hazeltine.
"The great amateur player, Bill Hyndman, had used his club as a cane to get down and play a ball from near the water line on the seventh hole. He hit a great shot, but Boatwright concluded by saying, 'You should have seen the look on his face when he saw me holding up two fingers for grounding his club in a hazard.' I then did what comes naturally, and chirped out, 'How many fingers was he holding up, P.J?' What saved me was that the remark brought the house down, and even Mr. Boatwright let out a little chuckle and muttered, 'Just the one.' When Rebbie saw me after the meeting, he simply said, 'You're darn lucky that was funny.'"
A sense of humor is what has made Green an enduring figure on the golf scene despite not picking up a club himself.
"The game was meant for walking and talking," said Green. "I really don't think any other game gets lodged in a person's soul quite like golf does. Certain aspects of it tend to lodge in the area of the spleen as well, but they can be dealt with via moderate medication and stern counseling.
"Golf is the best sport for joking by far; you don't hear too many football, soccer, or tennis stories. I love golf because of the human and social aspects, and it is only rivaled by hockey in my opinion. Hockey and golf friends usually turn out to be lifelong friends."
A few of those lifelong friends have local ties and include Rob Magnuson, Glen Hasselberg, John Smiley and Baldy Waldahl.
As for the future, Green appreciates being able to serve the MGA.
"I get to keep my finger in the golf pie, so to speak, without having to play," Green said. "I get to go back to these great courses that I rated over 30 years ago and see how much they've improved, many simply by remaining what they have always been and aging gracefully. Without the MGA, I don't think I would be able to do that."
Though the playing side of golf may be short one fun contestant, the game will retain Green's irreplaceable presence for as long as he chooses. And hopefully the 2014 Breezy Cup is just the end of one great golf story and the beginning to several more that will be told from his unique point of view.