Unique brother-sister team achieving success on pro golf tour. Ken Green hits the shots and earns the prize money, while Shelley carries her brother's clubs and handles all off-course arrangements
When Ken Green sought a caddy three years ago, he not only got someone to lug around his 45-pound bag of clubs. He also got someone who would baby-sit, make airplane and hotel reservations, wash and pick out his clothes, and give him moral support. How did he get one person to do all this? That's easy. His asked his older sister, Shelley, if she'd like to take on the job -- and she agreed despite the fact that she knew nothing about golf.
``I really rely on Shelley,'' Ken said of the only regular woman caddy on the tour. ``On the golf course I can say things to her that I would never say to another caddy. And who else has a caddy that does the laundry?''
Shelley does a lot more than the laundry for her brother. ``All Kenny has to worry about is golf,'' she says. ``I do everything else.''
Ken joined the tour in 1982, struggled for his first three years, then began moving up in 1985 when he won his first tour tournament (the Buick Open) and earned $151,355 for the year. This year has been even better, capped by his biggest career victory last month when he took down the $180,000 top prize in the International Tournament at Castle Rock, Colo.
It was in 1983, when he was battling to make a go of it, that Ken Asked his sister to caddy. She was surprised, but she quickly quit her bookkeeping job in Florida and joined him in Milwaukee.
The life style of a professional golfer is not as glamorous as most people would suspect, Shelley said. The Greens travel by car to a lot of tournaments, and they do not journey alone . They always take their pets, two large dogs and a ferret, and sometimes Ken's 4-year-old son.
``We have a great relationship. We never have any fights,'' Shelley reports. ``We live out of a suitcase, but I love it. In the beginning everyone was cautious about me, but now I'm one of the boys. I love it out here. And, if it wasn't working out for Kenny, I wouldn't be out here. I'll caddy as long as Ken will have me.''
Shelley, who is one year older than her brother, says he is more fortunate than he realizes in having her there to pick out his clothes for him. ``One day he was walking out the door with lavender pants, green socks, and a red shirt,'' she recalls. ``I said, `No way you're going out like that. Get back in here.' ''
Shelley is the lone person in the Green family who does not play golf. In addition to Ken, both of their parents and an older brother play the sport.
``Shelley always used to say that she didn't ever want to play golf, but recently she expressed some interest, so I took her to the driving range one day,'' said Ken. ``She did all right, but I still wouldn't bring her to the golf course until she is ready. And I've told her that I refuse to caddy for her on the LPGA tour!''
Most golfers choose caddies who know about their games and can help select the right clubs, read putts, and provide strategies for their shots. Or a golfer may take a caddy who knows a certain course particularly well.
Ken did let Shelley do the honors once. ``In a tournament two years ago, he was so far behind, well out of contention,'' she recalls. ``He was about 110 yards away and asked me to pick out a club for him. I did know enough not to pick a driver, so I chose a wedge that still left him 45 feet from the hole. He then sank it, and I said, `See. I picked the right club.' ''
Ken uses his caddy for other purposes, as he admitted during the International, which was played on a 7,503-yard course, 6,600 feet above sea level. ``I'm not in good shape, and this course is a killer,'' Ken confessed. ``In the opening rounds I kept telling Shelley to be slow to the tee, so I could get there quickly and get a chance to catch my breath. That way the other players didn't think I was slow.''
Spectators can easily spot the slight Shelley on the course. She usually wears a skirt, but even in the International, in which caddies were required to wear white overalls, she was recognizable because of her large, white earrings and the curly, brown hair flowing over her visor.
If you miss her, you can pick out the Greens by his golf clubs. Instead of using the usual leather or knitted club covers, Shelley takes stuffed teddy bears, sews socks on them, and uses those to cover the woods.
The Greens grew up in Connecticut. ``I've been watching Kenny play golf since we were kids,'' said the proud Shelley. ``We're close -- always have been. I was always protecting Kenny, because he was my little brother. I've always stuck up for my brother. I guess it's the big sister in me.''
Shelley continually encourages Ken out on the course. When he makes a mistake, she never mentions it unless Ken brings it up.
``I know when Kenny wants to talk,'' she said. ``Usually on the course he's a real chatterbox. He loves to talk; it's his way of relaxing. I'm not the normal caddy -- out there for the money. He's my brother, and I really want him to win.''