U-M Golf Course manager Charlie Green hanging up his clubs after 52 years
Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
On Dec. 31, his last day as manager of the clubhouse, a new era will begin. "It will take a while to move all these things," he said. "But it’s time to go. I’m 77."
Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Green had only played golf a few times until his father gave him clubs for his high school graduation. When he came to school in Ann Arbor, he used them more and more, and eventually became a 6-handicap golfer.
After receiving his master's degree in education and teaching certificate from Eastern Michigan University, Green taught math in Willow Run and Taylor. During summers, he worked at the U-M course and Radrick Farms Golf Course, then when he retired from teaching, took over as clubhouse manager in 1997. Looking back, he said it makes him wonder what would have happened if his father had given him a tennis racquet.
His memories at Michigan are good ones. "The athletic department has been like a second family for me," he said. "There is a warmth here, people look out for each other, and even the big shots come around and visit." Green was on a first-name basis with the people who have had buildings named after them — Crisler, Oosterbaan, Keen, Canham, Schembechler. He isn’t old enough to have Fielding Yost on the list, he said.
Green recalls the day eight years ago when Bo Schembechler came to his office, sat down and said, "What’s this I hear about you?" That was shortly before Green was scheduled to have open heart surgery for an aneurysm. Bo had had his share of heart problems by then. "I’m going to show everyone that I’m as tough as you are," Green replied. To which Bo said, "You’re not that tough!" and got up and stormed out.
"I have met so many men, tough and hard-nosed on the outside, but, like Bo, who really cared," Green said. "Those are my memories. Now we have Brady Hoke, who went to the same high school as I did, and basketball coach John Beilein, a wonderful man. I have been blessed all the way through."
Another venue that Green said shows the caring side of those he has worked with is the charity events like the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital fundraiser. He helps put that on every year with former Michigan football players Brian Griese, Charles Woodson and Steve Hutchinson.
A day of golf is followed by a banquet, where those attending hear why the hospital needs money.
"I’ve cried many times at those," Green said. "One year a college professor told about his daughter getting chicken pox and how it affected her heart to the point that she needed two transplants at Mott. To punctuate his story, he then introduced his daughter, Julie, saying that it was donations to Mott Hospital that made it possible for her to now be a freshman at UM. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house."
Green has had many football players work at the course while students — for some reason a lot of linebackers and quarterbacks, including Griese, John Navarre and Tom Brady. Gerald Ford, after he served as president, played in a pro-am tournament there.
Green's boss for the past 11 years calls him "the definition of a Michigan man."
"He is a great man who loves his family and the university," said Chantel Jackson, general manager of the course. "Charlie is one of the most reliable and trustworthy people I know. He wears M on his sleeve and his heart. He is so well-liked and well-loved that every room or restaurant he walks into, half the people know him. And he has a great sense of humor — dry — so you might miss it at first."
Besides golf, Green has worked at the football games for 46 years and men’s basketball for 45, retiring from both this year. He was one of the official timekeepers at football games. When the referee on the field says "please reset the game clock" to such and such, that’s Green’s cue. He also kept a log of whenever the clock started and stopped.
Green began working men’s basketball at the inaugural game for Crisler Arena in 1967 when Michigan played Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky team (the bad guys won, 96-79). He would use a manual typewriter to record who scored, from where on the court, and give the running score, then make it available to reporters. Later he became the timekeeper. He also helped run the game clock and scoreboard for women’s basketball.
Green served four years on the board of directors of the Alumni Association, and for his service to the athletic department was awarded an honorary M and a letter jacket by the Letter Winners M Club, the award he says he is most proud of.
He also has a certificate signed by two state legislators for his support and promotion of women’s golf, especially at the U-M course.
Green ranks the U-M course as the best around, though there was a time when it fell into disrepair. "When Bo was athletic director, we had a fundraiser to restore it to its original greatness," he said. "His approach was that if it’s Michigan, it has to be number one."
The course opened in 1931 and was designed by Alister MacKenzie, who designed many others, including the Augusta National Golf Club where the Masters Tournament is played.
The sixth hole of the 6,800-yard course is marked by a plaque in honor of Green, given by one of his Phi Delta Theta fraternity brothers, who donated a large amount to the course.
Green says that when he retires, he is looking forward to sleeping in a bit, having lunch with the guys, playing golf with the staff once a week at area courses, and coming over in the evening to play, since he lives nearby. He expects he will be doing more charity work, too.
Certain things, like extensive travel, won’t be possible because of his wife Jean’s degenerative arthritis. She has had numerous surgeries, an artificial hip and knee.
"Despite constant pain, she attends Mass at seven every morning with her walker and with difficulty," Green said. "She is remarkable. If I had that type of pain, I would curl up in a corner and cry."
And what does Jean think of Charlie after 42 years of marriage?
"It’s been great," she says. "He is a gem of a guy, very thoughtful. Any time I ask him to do anything, he always does it. Always. He is great with our two kids, Sean and Eileen, and our 8 month-old grandson, Javin. He coached soccer, basketball, little league when the kids played, helped with school projects, did Scouts with our son."
She has more: "He goes out of his way to make the events at the golf course special for everyone. Everyone loves Charlie. He did everything for me whenever I was in the hospital and home recovering. He still does the laundry, shopping, and errands. When friends learn all that he does and see our house and what he has constructed, especially in the recreation room which is inundated with Michigan stuff, they say to me, ‘Jean, where did you find him?’"
The definition of a Michigan man.
Bob Horning is a lifelong Ann Arbor resident who writes U-M sports human interest stories for AnnArbor.com. If you have ideas for future columns, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.