Golf great Hubert Green passed away at the age of 71 yesterday. The Alabama native had battled throat cancer on and off for the past 16 years.
Hubert Myatt Green was born in Birmingham, Alabama on December 28, 1946. He played varsity golf for Shades Valley High School in Birmingham and went on to star at Florida State University (FSU). Green was a prolific amateur golfer, winning the Southern Amateur in 1966, followed by the Alabama State Amateur Championship in 1967 and 1968; then a second Southern Amateur title in 1969.
Upon graduating from FSU in 1968 (marketing degree), Green enlisted in the Alabama National Guard. In 1970 he turned pro, and finally made it to the PGA Tour in 1971 where he proceeded to win the Rookie of the Year award, aided by his first Tour win at the Houston Champions International.
Despite playing in the era of Nicklaus, Trevino, and Watson, Hubert Green won his share of PGA Tour trophies, 19 in all.
Between 1974 and 1979, Green was considered one of the very best golfers in the world, winning 11 PGA Tour titles in a six-season stretch, including a four-win season in 1974 as well his first major in 1977 at the 77th U.S. Open at Southern Hills, despite a death threat.
At the time, Green called the U.S. Open victory “my personal goal, my personal lifetime ambition.”
During that prolific 142-start stretch, Green finished with 11 wins, 51 top 10s, and 111 top 25s with just 13 missed-cuts. In terms of statistics, Green posted a top-10 finish more than one-third (.357) of the time he teed it up; a top 25 in more than 75% (.7816) of his starts. He missed the cut less than 10% (.091) of the time. During that 48-month run, Green also went overseas and captured two premier international titles: the Japan Tour’s Dunlop Phoenix Tournament (1975), and the European Tour’s Irish Open (1977).
But, inexplicably, starting with the 1980 season, Green went into a prolonged slump after turning just 34-years old, and was never the same player.
He won in 1981 at the Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open, as well as a fall season event in 1984 (Southern Open), but the former top-25 machine was also missing cuts at an unusually high clip – 14 in 1982, 11 in 1983, even 10 in 1985, the season of Green’s last Tour victory, and his second major title: the 1985 PGA Championship.
After edging Lee Trevino by two shots at Cherry Hills to win the Wanamaker Trophy, Green was asked to compare the two major victories, given his struggles in recent years. He said, “Maybe this means a little more than the U.S. Open because of that, and because I was winning back then and expected to win a major some time.”
Green was a member of three U.S. Ryder Cup teams (1977, 1979, 1985), going undefeated (3-0-0) in singles matches.
Green went on to become a regular on the senior tour circuit – then called the Senior PGA Tour. In 1998, he won his first senior tour event in his hometown of Birmingham at the Bruno’s Memorial Classic at Greystone Golf & Country Club, a course Green had designed eight years earlier. Two years later, in 2000, Green had his best season on the senior circuit, winning twice and breaking the one-million mark ($1,308,784) in earnings for the first time since becoming a tour pro in 1970.
Green once said about life as a tour professional, “I do love this game. I love all the attention, and the money, and also the distractions, the autographs and yes, the loud talker who paid his $14… If you can’t cope with everything out here, you don’t deserve to be out here.”
Green is a member of the Florida State Seminoles Hall of Fame – the first golfer ever enshrined. With 22 Tour wins (19 U.S. PGA Tour, 2 Japan Tour, 1 European PGA Tour), including two majors, Green is considered FSU’s greatest golfer, joining only Brooks Koepka as a two-time major winner, and Paul Azinger as a double-digit Tour winner.
Green was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007. He leaves behind a wife and three sons.
R.I.P. HUBERT GREEN
(Hover/swipe right to view 10-photo slideshow via PGA TOUR)