The first time you see Danny Green swing a golf club you swear there must be some mistake. This can't be the first round of the Porter Cup, an amateur tournament second in prestige to the U.S. Amateur. This has to be the Ham-Am, and Green must be a bigwig who paid his way into the game so he might one day point at the TV and brag, "Hey, I played with that guy!"
Green is 47. Most of his fellow competitors live in dorms.
Green's belt buckle points south. The rest of the field looks like Alan Webb.
You think Jim Furyk has a funky swing? Furyk looks like a hybrid of Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Byron Nelson compared to the man from Jackson, Tenn., who devised his own peculiar technique the summer after high school and was breaking par in weeks. Had Green ever made it really big, Woods big, Mickelson big, a recall would be out for every golf manual in the country. Because there's not one that says great golf results from standing two arm-lengths from the ball, bending like a vaulter's pole, settling painstakingly into a gardener's squat, wrapping the right hand underneath the shaft and then, finally, looping the swing Furyk-like. Not that Green knows how a real golf swing is supposed to appear.
"I don't look in instruction books," Green said. "Does it look like I ever took a lesson? I just squat down on the ball, hit it, go find it, and hit it again. I just got my own way of doing it."
The beauty is that Green ranks among the best amateurs in the country. His resume abounds with accomplishments and, even at this late stage of the game, continues to expand.
Green was U.S. Amateur runner-up in 1989, earning a berth in the following Masters.
"When I got there in '90 I wasn't ready for it, and I was really embarrassed to be there with my swing and my setup," he said. "My game's evolved a little bit and gotten better."
He returned to Augusta in 2000, after winning the '99 U.S. Mid-Amateur, and missed the cut by a stroke.
"I probably should have made it except for one, two bad shots on 13 the second day," Green said. "I made double bogey the second day with a 6-iron in my hands."
He sniffed another return trip to Augusta earlier this month, when he blitzed the field at the U.S. Public Links Championship with medal rounds of 63-68, setting the 36-hole record. The dream ended when he lost the longest match in the history of the tournament, a 26-hole dogfight in the round of 32.
Green shot 1-under 69 in Wednesday's Porter Cup, his accuracy unerring but birdie opportunities uncashed. He's five shots off the lead, which makes you wonder. Why's Green teeing it up against elite kids when he could take that swing and get strokes from most anybody in the country?
"I probably could make a helluva living doing it," he said. "If I wanted to quit amateur golf and travel around to the big cities, Miami, L.A., I could hang out for months at the public golf courses or whatever. I could very easily pass for an 8- or 10-handicapper. I could beat all them, and then I could beat the 6s, then I could beat the 4s, the 2s. I could make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year traveling around the country. But I'm just not like that."
Green's not after the hustle. He'll gladly beat you fair and square. Make fun of him if you'd like. Laugh at his swing. Chortle over his atypical appearance. His wife, Dawn, said she's heard it all before. So she tells hecklers they ought to make it a two-sided conversation.
Go ahead. Grab your clubs. Load your wallet. And step inside the ropes.