My mind has been struggling to comprehend the meaning and appropriateness of rules lately as I have been following the story of Ken Green. Green, a current Champions Tour player and 5-time winner on the PGA Tour was in a terrible accident last year which resulted in the amputation of his lower right leg. More tragic was the death of his brother, girlfriend, and dog in this same accident.
Green's journey from his Tour beginnings until now make for an interesting read. From being called golf's "bad boy" or "Daly before there was a Daly", Green admits that although he may have been controversial, he wouldn't change much from back then.
As many Tour professionals do, Green followed his on-course successes with a slow decent into marginal play and some bad choices. According to several articles and stories I've read, I learned that he fell victim to lack of confidence in his game and maybe in his life, resulting in a period of depression.
But Green decided to work on those challenges and his game improved. Upon turning 50, he was allowed "limited status" on the Champions Tour for 24 months because he had at least 2 PGA Tour wins. The "status" on all the Tours can be confusing - depending on accomplishments and achievements players may have a higher priority than others...which can mean the difference between playing and not playing. With Green not having "full status", he is not extended the same opportunities as other players...one of those being approved for a medical waiver.
At the time of his accident, he was 11 months into his 24 month eligibility. It has been almost a year since the accident and he has made it his main goal to play professional golf again. It hasn't been easy, but he's not giving up on golf.
But it appears golf is giving up on him. When Green asked the Tour if he could stop his 24-month clock at the time of his accident and start it again (giving him 13 months to play) when he was able to, the Tour denied it. Their reason was that players on "limited status" are not able to get medical exemptions. The level of injury is irrelevant and giving Green approval would open the door to countless other players who were denied based on that same limited status.
So the clock currently ticks and Green has until July 23 before his limited status is up. It's not that Green doesn't have options. He can request exemptions from sponsors, and I imagine some would be thrilled to have Green in their event. But Green has indicated that right now it's about trying to get the Tour to give him the time he believes he's entitled to, and the idea of begging for a spot to play isn't very appealing.
He can also sue, and although he as indicated on his blog that he isn't interested in doing that now, there are folks encouraging him to reconsider.
After reading about all of this, my mind keeps wondering, can a better rule be made? Can there be some consideration for this level of tragedy? I want to believe there can be.
Of course my argumentative brain says, where does the line get drawn? What about the guy that has knee surgery? Or throws his back out? Do all of their clocks stop, too? How many eligible players would be out there if the rule was changed?
This is what is causing Champion Tour president Mike Stevens great concern, and it appears that this is the main reason for Green's denial.
Couldn't the Tour look at giving different "clocks" to different injuries? A designated stop time for the type of injury that is approved and then it starts again even if the player isn't ready?
I don't know if there is a right answer, but my heart tells me that Ken Green deserves his 13 months. Laws, policies, and rules at all levels of government, private business, and the sporting world are reviewed and updated all the time. If there is ever a time to look at something from a new perspective, I think now is the time.
My wish is that the PGA Tour will consider revising their rules and find some fairness in what was an unfair and tragic twist of fate for Ken Green...and for anyone else that might come upon such an unfortunate set of circumstances.
Golf is about giving back, not taking away...I hope they give Ken Green another chance.
If you want to read what I read, check out these links:
New York Times Article...
Jeff Palpoli's blog - he interviewed Ken Green...
Jay Busbee's Devil Ball Golf Blog...
Ken's Web Page...http://www.kengreenscomeback.com/
Filed under: Ken Green, limited status, Champions Tour, ruling