BAD GRIESBACH, GERMANY: Richard Green set about celebrating his 20th season competing on the European Tour by putting himself in contention on day one of the Porsche European Open east of Munich today.
Green didn’t drop a shot in a six-under par 65 to be one shot from the lead shared by Frenchman Benjamin Herbert and Austrlan star Bernd Wiesberger.
And the owner of two Porsches, including a 996 GTS racing version, felt right at home in a tournament back on the Tour schedule since 2009 and sponsored by the same German car maker.
Green’s 20-year loyalty to the European Tour has extended over 400 tournaments since making his debut in 1996 as a then 25-year-old.
In that period, he’s also earned just shy of 10 million Euro Tour prize money — enough to fuel his race car passion.
Green has enjoyed many highs in his career starting by shocking the golf world in denying Greg Norman and Ian Woosnam a playoffvictory in the 1997 Dubai Desert Classic.
He’s had three other victories on the European Tour along with capturing the 2004 Australian Masters and at Huntingdale where he honed his skills.
And many will forget Green was fourth in the 2007 Open Championship at Carnoustie while no one will forget his incredible par four ace early last year that kicked out of a bunker during the Victorian Open Pro-Am.
“I’ve had a great European Tour career and to have remained competitive in what is my 20th year on the Tour has been very pleasing,” he said.
“I am still fit enough so hopefully I can keep pressing on for a few more years to come.”
But when asked if he ever regretted not competing on the US PGA Tour, there is one event that still eats at the heart of the now Norway-based Aussie.
“I had the opportunity in 2005 to earn my card on the PGA Tour as I was leading The Memorial and let the chance of capturing the tournament slip through my very hands,” he said.
“It was the last round and I was standing on the 15th tee enjoying a one-shot lead but then found my emotions and the pressure of leading get the better of me and I was steamrolled shooting a round of 70 and finishing six shots behind in a share of eighth place.
“It was a tough pill to swallow and it still hurts thinking about it 10 years on.”
But then as can so often happen to professional golfers, Green injured his back in the simple act of lifting a suitcase.
“I played the next two events after The Memorial but then I injured my back and didn’t play again for about a month,” he said.
“It was as easy as that, but I just could not play and looking back it was such a shame.
“If I hadn’t had the injury I could have joined the likes of John Senden and carved out a pretty good career over there in the States.
“But then I have really enjoyed my career over here in Europe and I’ve enjoyed the lifestyle travelling about Europe to different destinations.”
So much so, Green spends the European Tour season based in Norway while he and his Norwegian-born fiancee Marianne Skarpnord jointly own a house at Thirteenth Beach near Barwon Heads in his home state of Victoria.
And it was on the Thirteenth Beach course earlier this year the pair shared a rare and fairytale golfing moment with twin Victorian Open triumphs.
Skarpnord was first to win the women’s tournament and an hour later she watched nervously as her future husband birdied the second playoff hole to win the men’s event.
And Green enjoyed another first last week, lining up on the grid in Norway in his beloved #63 Porsche GTS 996, and so numbered after his lowest score in Europe, and in the Norwegian Porsche Car Club series.
“I had been thinking about it for some time but last week was my first official car race in Norway,” said the long-time Valvoline-backed Aussie.
“It was a last-minute decision and I had a great time – so much so I am going to contest the full Norwegian championship next year.
“It only entails four races at this stage and there’s no prizemoney as everyone just races for fun, so I should be able to map out my 2016 schedule to fit in the four races and hopefully they just don't fall on weeks of the bigger events in Europe.
“But I got such a buzz out of last week and with everyone involved, including the fellow race drivers, all welcoming me with open arms.
“And I was still pretty competitive finishing eighth from a starting field of 22 cars and that was with no experience of ever having raced before on that track.
“So hopefully, I can do better next year when I commit to the four events in the championship.
“The minute I stop enjoying it, there’s no way I’m going to play golf – it’s too tiring playing golf every week, travelling and the level of golf has gone up and you have to work hard to keep up.
“I’m setting better routines, blocking time off in tournament weeks to do things other than golf, so I’ve really enjoyed the lifestyle the last couple of years, and that translates across to the golf, I think.”