Life is all about family for golfing great Tammie Green
SOMERSET, Ohio -- As the youngest of eight children, it's safe to say that Tammie Green took more lumps than any of her other siblings.
Looking back at the success she's had over her 16-year LPGA career, she's probably grateful for those lumps, too.
"When your brothers say you can't do something, you work at it until you can do it," Green says.
Green can do it, all right. Seven career wins and the distinction of being the only player ever to compete in The Solheim Cup while pregnant attest to that. She went on to post a 1-2 record for the victorious U.S. team in 1998 and, in the same year, eclipse $3 million in career earnings.
But with that competitiveness between herself and her brothers came a closeness that's felt to this day. She and her husband, Bill, and their 5-year-old daughter Tina Marie still call Somerset home, and most of her siblings still live within two miles of the homestead. The homestead is a farm that adjoins a nine-hole public golf course where the majority of their family recreation took place. Neither her father or her brothers ever played professional golf, but all were avid linksters with competitive fire.
"One of the reasons I did have a lot of success as a junior is that I didn't have the best instruction early on but was challenged," Green says.
The formal training did eventually come, though, and, while Green improved, she still didn't have any dreams of making a professional career out of golf. The lessons paid off when she made the boys' team at Sheridan High School in nearby Thornville and rose to the No. 1 slot her junior year (1976). But a setback followed when her instructor advised her to change her grip.
"I came home crying because I almost didn't make the team," Green recalls. "So I started to grip the club the way I used to, and I started hitting the same bad shots as with the new grip. So at that point I figured I'd stay with the new grip."
While Green struggled with her golf game, she continued excelling at basketball. A wing guard with a wicked outside shot, she was named an All-Ohio honorable mention her junior season and caught the attention of colleges nationwide. In an ironic twist, Marshall College in West Virginia offered her a golf scholarship.
"The basketball coach didn't have any scholarship money, so I went on a golf scholarship knowing I'd play basketball as well," Green explains. "I tried that, but it didn't work because the seasons overlapped."
Concentrating on golf turned out to be one of the best decisions of Green's career. She went on to win three tournaments in her senior year and narrowly missed being named to the All-America team. "I feel as though it was because I went to a smaller school and that I didn't do well in the nationals," Green says.
What made up for that letdown was being named the LPGA's Rookie of the Year in 1987 after posting four top-10 finishes, including a season-best fourth place at the Chrysler-Plymouth Classic. She notched her first win two years later by capturing the du Maurier Ltd. Classic, one of the LPGA's four major championships.
At 43 years old, Green has little to regret when looking back at a career distinguished by consistency.
"I'm very pleased with my career," she says. "It's so difficult to win out here now, but it has always been that way. I feel like I missed out on a couple wins, but then again it's a matter of making the putts and having some luck."
LPGA golfers need more luck than ever today, particularly when it comes to competing against such a dominating athlete as Annika Sorenstam. Even though Green has never challenged men on the PGA Tour before, she can relate to the task on another level.
"I did it on the club pro level, from the same tees, and won," Green says of her days as an apprentice at Zanesville Country Club, Zanesville, Ohio. "As far as the next level, though, I didn't hit the ball far enough, and I thought the men had a better game than me. My dreams just weren't that big."
"Annika is great for the game, and she has inspired a lot of young women," Green adds. "She's consumed by the game, and set her goals short-term to be the best. But she has said that once she has children she's going to walk away from the game, and I don't know how she can do that with being the best golfer in the game."
It won't be as tough a decision for Green. She plans on playing 15 tournaments next year, but once her daughter starts school she wants to be a full-time mom.
"I want to be a mom who fixes her breakfast in the morning and is there when she comes home," Green says. "I've had a rewarding career and have had the luxury of having a great family life. I want to provide the right environment and offer lots of love. That's my goal now, and it will be for some time."
What's in the bag?
Titleist driver, Cleveland 3-wood, Callaway Steelhead Plus 9-wood and 11-wood, Titleist irons, Ping sand wedge, Ping putter. Also carries a buckeye in her golf bag and has the name of her 5-year-old daughter, Tina Marie, stitched on it as well.
November 22, 2003