Obituary: Charlie Green, amateur golfing great

Charlie Green
Charlie Green
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Born: 2 August, 1932, in Dumbarton. Died: 28 January, 2013, in Cardross, aged 80

THE word “legend” may be used with abandon in the modern sporting arena, but it is entirely appropriate in describing the late Charlie Green, who devoted his golfing career to the amateur game and enjoyed a level of success that is unlikely to be matched. In fact, no-one will probably come close, such was Green’s prodigality, both in his “regular” career then in the ­senior ranks.

One notable exception apart – he failed to win the Amateur Championship, the blue ribbon event in the unpaid ranks – every single trophy worth its salt in amateur golf has the name “CW Green” inscribed on it at least once and, in most cases, it appears frequently.

The Scottish Amateur Championship, for instance, fell to Green three times – 1970, 1982 and 1983 – while he was a finalist in the Scottish Golf Union’s flagship event on two other occasions. In the last of those triumphs, Green beat Dunbar’s John Huggan, 27 years his junior, by one hole in their 36-hole title showdown at Gullane.

“Charlie had retired from playing competitive golf when he won his last two Scottish Amateur Championships,” said Glencorse’s George Macgregor, the man Green had beaten, again on the final green, at Carnoustie 12 months earlier, having opened his account in the event by holing a 6ft putt at the last to beat Hugh Stuart at Royal Aberdeen.

Green also chalked up two Scottish Stroke-Play Championship successes – 1975 and 1984 – and was runner-up in that event twice as well while other notable triumphs with a card and pencil in his hand came in the Lytham Trophy (1970 and 1974), Tennant Cup (1968, 1970 and 1975), Craigmillar Park Open (1971, 1972 and 1977), Edward Trophy (1968, 1973, 1974 and 1975) and Cameron Corbett Vase (1968).

In his beloved Dunbartonshire – his home club was Dumbarton though he played most of his golf at Cardross, where he lived close to the 18th – Green won the country stroke-play and match-play championship five times each while he was also a three-time West of Scotland Open champion.

At no stage in his career was Green, a long-time salesman for whisky company Ballantine’s in Dumbarton, tempted into turning professional. Even though he gave a good account of himself on one of the biggest stages in the game when winning the Silver Medal as leading amateur behind Arnold Palmer in the 1962 Open Championship, he was content to play the game for fun and, of course, the voucher which he picked up with unerring regularity when club Opens were popular.

“Charlie was a licence to print money in those days as he would win £100 vouchers almost every weekend,” recalled Cliffe Jones, who, in his days as an assistant professional at Cardross, cherished the regular Friday afternoon games he enjoyed with Green.

“Charlie was unbeatable back then and it certainly wasn’t just down to luck or anything like that,” added Jones, now the club professional at Glencorse and who shared Green’s passion for the Sons, Dumbarton Football Club. “He was the first guy I came across with a work ethic – he’d come down to the club and practice for hours.”

In addition to all the individual success that hard work brought – in his 50s he won the Senior Open Amateur Championship six times and the Scottish Seniors Championship on five occasions – Green also enjoyed an incredible career in team golf. With 63 appearances under his belt, he’s Scotland’s most-capped player, enjoying six outright triumphs and three shared successes in the Home Internationals, an event he played in 18 times in a row (19 if you include the 1979 contest that only involved Scotland and England, due to an outbreak of foot and mouth in Ireland).

In Great Britain & Ireland colours, he made five appearances in the Walker Cup, an event he also had the honour of participating in twice as captain. On the second occasion – at Pine Valley, New Jersey, in 1985 – his side included a certain Colin Montgomerie, who also played under Green in two Eisenhower Trophy teams (1984 and 1986). Prior to that, Green had also held the Scottish captaincy, finishing in that role in 1983, the year he was awarded an OBE for his services to golf.

Three years ago, Green travelled through to Edinburgh to attend the last day of the Craigmillar Park Open, an event for which he had a great affinity. Standing at the back of the 18th green before doing the honours at the prize-giving, he admitted to feeling a sense of incredulity at seeing Kilmacolm’s Matthew Clark post a winning aggregate of 20-under-par to follow in his own spikemarks on the capital course.

Fittingly, Clark is a career amateur, just as Green was, but, in general, that environment and the attitudes of those in it has changed enormously from the days when Green, the aforementioned Stuart and Macgregor, Alan Brodie, Ian Hutcheon, Gordon Cosh, Sandy Saddler and Sandy Pirie were all totally committed to the unpaid ranks. Not that Green seemed to mind, having gleaned nothing but pleasure from a remarkable career.

“I was 16 when I started the game,” he recalled in an interview last year, soon after he had been diagnosed with cancer. “My dad was a member at Dumbarton and he introduced me to it. It was swimming and football I was keen on at the time, but they quickly got dropped. It was an instant love affair with golf, I was dead keen. It’s been a good game to me. I had some very good times and the good times seemed to last a long time.”

The impact Green had on Scottish amateur golf will last forever, his string of successes recorded in black-and-white likely to provoke gapes of astonishment from future generations as they flick through record books.

Dean Robertson, a former Scottish Amateur champion who went on to become a Euro­pean Tour winner, came from a different generation to Green but, in paying tribute to him, he summed up his stature in the Scottish game. “If he and DB [the late D Barclay Howard] get together in an after-life, what a partnership that will be,” said Robertson.