1970-1979 #GAM100 – Pete Green, GAM’s Chairman of the Scoreboard
Editor’s note: This is the sixth of a 10-part series celebrating the Golf Association of Michigan’s 100th year of service to the game. #GAM100
by Greg Johnson
FARMINGTON HILLS – Franklin’s Pete Green is one of Michigan’s most accomplished golfers, the third generation to run what is now a fourth-generation family-owned mechanical contracting company and the father of Suzy Green-Roebuck, another of Michigan’s most accomplished golfers.
“I’m being selfish if I talk about myself too much because everything in my life is really all because of my family,” he said.
“I’m proud of my golf, but proud that I played golf with my father, and played with my kids and now grandkids, and really proud of all of them, what they do and who they are.”
Pete is in his 56th year of marriage to Marilyn, a father of two, grandfather of five, 78 years old with a birthday in October.
He looks back on his Michigan Golf Hall of Fame golf career and offers stories, but gets most animated when he talks about having won the GAM Father-Son Championship with his father Edward, then winning twice it with his son Michael, and watching Suzy as she made her way through the amateur ranks, the LPGA and into the Hall of Fame with him.
“That’s been pretty good stuff,” he said. “Marilyn is a nine-time women’s champ at Orchard Lake (Country Club). You know Michael and Suzy were good players. You know my grandson Charlie played for Michigan State the last few years. We have another grandson, Gordy, who plays hockey at Miami University (of Ohio). Suzy’s kids are really active. I think there’s another golfer in there.”
Michael is the fourth Green to lead John E. Green Company, a company founded by Pete Green’s grandfather John in 1909. It has been consistently rated as one of the largest, most diversified, full-service union mechanical, fire suppression and service contractors operating in the United States. The company installs and services plumbing, HVAC, process piping and fire suppression systems.
“I’ve never officially retired,” Pete said. “I’m the Chairman of the Board now. It’s a great company.”
Pete, who first shot his age at 66 and still maintains a single-digit handicap, is one of Michigan’s greatest chairman of the scoreboards, too.
He was among the state’s best players over four decades, as evidenced by his four Michigan Amateur Championships being claimed in 1969, ’79, ’86 and ’95.
He was 55 when he won the fourth in 1995 at Michaywe’ – The Pines in Gaylord, knocking off soon-to-be PGA Tour player Doug LaBelle of Mount Pleasant in the final. He remains the oldest player to have won the Michigan Amateur, and ironically, he had set the previous mark at age 46 with his win at Belvedere Golf Club in 1986 over fellow Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member Greg Reynolds of Flint.
“I get a kick out of being the oldest twice,” he said.
His four Amateur titles tie him with James D. Standish Jr., one behind Glenn Johnson and two behind Chuck Kocsis. Green had a great chance in 1985 to make it five, but lost in the finals to John Morgan of Birmingham, 1-up. Standish, Johnson, Kocsis and Morgan are also in the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
“None of those wins were easy, and I felt like I let a few get away, too,” he said. “I don’t really have a favorite. I haven’t had that many, so they are all favorites to me. I guess I remember most as a young guy it was fun to go to Belvedere, and (Country Club of) Jackson and Port Huron (Black River Golf Club) and play great courses.”
He first qualified for the Michigan Amateur at age 15, in 1955. He lost to Johnson, the eventual champion who was in the midst of winning three consecutive titles between 1954 and ’56 and adding two more in 1958 and ’61.
“I learned from that first Amateur how tough you had to be, and watched how tough a competitor Glenn was,” he said. “In ’63 I got married and I played well, lost to Bud Stevens, who I think beat Glenn in the finals.
“Maybe the first win at Belvedere in ’69 at Belvedere is a favorite,” he said. “I beat (Mike Fedewa) who is still a really good senior player and he was just a kid then. I played some great players in the finals. Greg Reynolds, Steve Braun, Doug LaBelle, of course I still think about some that I feel like I let get away, too. That’s golf. You let more get away than you ever get, at least I did.”
Green also has two GAM championship titles to his name (1967 and ’70). He won the prestigious Horton Smith Memorial Invitational six times, the now defunct Michigan Medal Play Championship seven times and the Michigan Mid-Amateur in 1984, a tournament he helped create and is now conducted by the GAM.
Nine times he was named GAM Player of the Year, and also took his game to the national stage. He qualified for and played in 15 U.S. Amateur Championships and three U.S. Open Championships and won the 1967 Middle Atlantic Amateur Championship.
His first national exposure came in the prestigious North and South Amateur after being invited through people he had met while attending college at the University of North Carolina and being a standout player on the golf team.
“Back then there were no college scholarships,” he said. “A member at my club (Orchard Lake) knew the athletic director and I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to school at that point. I played with a bunch of good players. Learned a lot. Playing there probably took me to the next level.”
He was medalist at the exclusive North and South Amateur in his first visit in 1959. Jack Nicklaus won the tournament. Then in ’60 he made it to the final match, falling to Charlie Smith of The Citadel. He also remembers losing in the semifinals twice, to Joe Inman (1969 winner) and Curtis Strange (1975 and ’76 winner).
“I did pretty good against some really great players,” he said.
His relationship with the GAM has largely been through tournament golf. The Detroit District Golf Association, the forerunner to the GAM, conducted the Junior District of Detroit and Green started his competitive play in those events.
He got involved with the Western Golf Association, and indirectly with the GAM administration, as a co-chairman of the Evans Scholar programs at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University in the 1970s.
“Smartest thing I did was ask if I could have a co-chairman and I got Bob McMasters, who had been the first Evans Scholar at Michigan,” he said. “I was working, had a young family and Bob has done a lot for Michigan golf as you know. He gets things done.”
McMasters, a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, president emeritus of the GAM and chairman emeritus of the Hall, credits Green with helping make the Evans Scholar houses at the two universities coed and for raising money to continue the program.
“Pete was more than a player, more than just a country club guy,” said McMasters, who caddied as a youngster for Kocsis and battled Johnson and Green in many championships. “It was just that he was such a great player so that’s what people remember. Like Chuck and Glenn, Pete had that something extra the rest of us wished we had.”
Suzy Green-Roebuck said golf was never forced on her with a heavy hand, but she didn’t have a choice about being around the game.
“There are pictures of me tending the pin at age 2, going out in a golf cart with Mom and Dad,” she said. “It wasn’t pushy, but I knew deep down they wanted to me to get into golf.”
She did, won two individual Class A state championships while at Birmingham Groves High, two GAM Junior Championships among others and ended up a team captain at Ohio State and a Michigan Women’s Amateur champion in 1989, just three years after her father’s fourth Amateur title, won three Michigan Women’s Open titles, won four times on what is now the LPGA’s Symetra Tour and spent seven years on the regular LPGA Tour.
She won her third Michigan Women’s Open in 2016 at age 49, and she said the trips to the Michigan Women’s Open and the Michigan PGA’s Tournament of Champions at Boyne Mountain Resort, remain special because she usually has her father with her as a roommate and caddy.
“We get into the golf, the competition that we both love,” she said. “We lock in. We escape from real life in golf I guess.”
Pete was elated when his daughter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017. They are the first father-daughter combination in the Hall, and the second parent-child combination following golf course designers Bruce and Jerry Matthews.
“I think back and the GAM has given our family a lot of chances to play competitive golf,” Pete said. “I haven’t though much about the GAM being around for 100 years. It’s funny, but when I think of the GAM, I think about how great they run tournaments, and except for a few bad pin positions, I’ve enjoyed playing in them all.”
#GAM History – Did you know?
In 1971 Melvin “Bud” Stevens won his record sixth GAM Championship. A three-time Michigan Amateur champion, three-time Michigan Amateur champion, three-time state caddie champion and state junior golf champion, he was also runner-up in the 1988 U.S. Senior Amateur. In 1979 Patti Shook Boice won her record seventh Michigan Women’s Amateur Championship, all in the stretch from 1967 to ’79. She was also runner-up six times in the state championship now administered by the GAM.