Bob Denney - PGA.com
NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. -- A candid, stoic Hubert Green -- facing a difficult road ahead with treatment for throat cancer -- was comforted by spectators and hugged by one cancer survivor Thursday following the opening round of the 64th Senior PGA Championship.
Green, 56, learned last week that he had Stage 4 throat cancer. He'll begin chemotherapy treatment at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical Center soon after he competes in the Championship. Green struggled to a 7-over-par 77 -- his highest score since 1998 in the Championship.
As he was walking to the scorer's trailer from the 18th green, a woman called out to Green from behind the metal spectator fence and gave him a hug.
"I'm a cancer survivor and I wanted to wish you well," the woman said.
The cancer "has altered my plans this summer quite a bit," said Green after stepping out of the scorer's trailer. "I had planned on going fishing next week with my sons and playing some golf this summer. Instead, I've got to go a nine-hole match with the devil and we'll see who'll win."
Green said that he would start chemotherapy treatment in about 10 days, a fact that he has trouble keeping out of his mind.
"Today, I just hit some terrible drives on the back side almost every hole. I don't make any excuses one way or the other. I just didn't concentrate very well and hit some bad drives," he said. "The rough's deep and the rough's supposed to be deep and that's why they call it the rough."
Green acknowledged the support he's received from both his fellow professionals and spectators.
"These folks have been very nice to me and a lot of guys on tour have said some very nice things to me and it means an awful lot," said Green. "It's very appreciated.
"I'm not out here for a sympathy vote. I'm not out to win the Miss Congeniality for Miss America," he added. "I'm out here to determine who's the best player out here. When I have the next game, I'll deal with it. Right now, I'm trying to deal with God."
Green said he never considered withdrawing prior to the competition.
"I needed to be here," said Green. "I was not ready to face what I've got to face starting the next few weeks. Coming here has been very good for me to get it off my chest.
"There's a lot of discomfort. There's a lot of ‘Why me?' It's not the way I wanted my hand dealt to me, but it's the hand I have to play. I can't ask to reshuffle. I've got to play the hand."
Green said he expects to return to golf this summer.
"I feel I'll be back in the game sometime in August," he said. "I probably won't be as strong as I am right now. That's the way it is. I've got to look forward; I can't look back. Jerry McGee has had the same kind of problems and I've got his number on speed dial."
McGee, 59, underwent chemotherapy in 1999 after it was discovered in March of that year that he had a golf-ball sized tumor on the back of his tongue and another on the side of his throat.
"When I heard the news about Hubert, I was saddened, but I told him that my phone was his phone 24 hours a day," said McGee, who posted a 73 Thursday in his seventh appearance in the Senior PGA Championship. "Hubert will fight it just as I did. Hubert is strong-willed and he will find like I did that some days you will be feeling great and the next will feel like you've run a marathon the day before.
"My slogan, if I had a T-shirt, is that ‘I'm on the right side of the divot,'" he said. " I am so fortunate to be playing as well as I have. There are days when you can't even feel good playing out of a golf cart. I had a great support team, the guys on the Tour, fans and tournament sponsors were tremendous to me.
"Leonard Thompson and Mike McCullough called me every day for 30 days when I started getting treatments," he added. "They called on days when I couldn't even talk. There were just tears falling down my face."
McGee said that he expects Green will find the same level of support.
"You play between the lines out here on Tour and try to beat everyone, but in the end you are so fortunate to realize that you have good friends," he said. "And that's what you need."