This past August, the Michigan golf teams and Ann Arbor community lost a key member in Charlie Green, who passed away at age 84.
For the typical Michigan fan, Charlie’s would not exactly be considered a household name. But, to many entrenched in the golf lore here at Michigan, Charlie Green was synonymous with the program.
Charlie served as clubhouse manager for the U-M Golf Course for 52 years. His role in this position was not only crucial to the course’s operation, but also to the golf teams as a whole.
“Being there so much, he obviously knew all of the golf coaches and the teams in particular,” Charlie’s son, Sean Green said. “As they were going off on golf trips, he would be there, pretty often to send them off on the bus. He always took an active interest in all the players and the team.”
Seeing as his career lasted five decades, Charlie took pride in the seemingly more mundane parts of his work as clubhouse manager; he helped organize club outings, oversaw day to day operations, managed staff and worked hands on to set up for important course events. But beyond this, Charlie was as close as one could get to an honorary member of the Wolverines’ golf programs.
“Charlie’s office was the first thing that any guest or staff member saw when they came into the clubhouse,” former Michigan coach Chris Whitten said. “Charlie was really my introduction to the athletic department, to golf at Michigan in general, and really the history of the athletic department and the people who had been a part of it.”
In addition to serving the golf course in any way possible, Charlie continued to be a beacon of warm nature and created a welcoming atmosphere for golfers. Many have said that Charlie made everyone on the team feel more at home, and made the university a little bit smaller.
“(Charlie) represented a connection to (the players), and he is one of the people that created a new home away from home for these young kids coming to a big University for the first time,” Whitten said. “He was kind of like the father, or grandfather figure for a lot of those kids.”
Charlie was not your typical clubhouse manager. Often, he made it a part of his job to take interest in the lives of players. Unlike many coaches they may have encountered, Charlie more than anything else was particularly interested in what Whitten referred to as “non-golf things.” These often included how players’ families were doing, how school was going and what they were interested in off the course. Having a person like Charlie ask about these things every day helped make the clubhouse feel like a second home.
“The coaches see the kids every day … we skip some of the personal stuff, just ‘How are you doing?’ ” Whitten said. “The fact that they had to walk past Charlie’s door before they got to the coaches, he got to ask them how they were as people.”
Today, a lasting memory of Charlie persists in the form of a plaque at the tee of the sixth hole, commemorating his career. The hole serendipitously named for Charlie was his favorite. It was endowed in his name by university donor John Buck in 2001, and it is often described as one of the most memorable and masterful holes at the course.
“(Buck) wanted to make a gift to the university,” Sean Green said. But, the first thing he thought of was my dad. He wanted my dad recognized for all of the hours and effort he put in at the course, and with athletics in general.”
Sean recounted that the hole’s endowment “brought tears” to Charlie’s eyes. It was a profound commemoration of a truly profound career and man.
The hole itself could certainly be described as the most memorable on the course. Whitten described it in detail: “The hole is really unique. The design of the green, the length of the hole, the strategy options, it definitely is the hole that people remember when they think of the course.”
Although arguably the most significant hole at the course was named after him, Charlie never let it affect his work.
“While he was deeply thankful for it, he treated everyone the same still and was always willing to help and be hands on,” Sean Green said.
Charlie also was a major proponent of women’s sports at Michigan. He was incredibly passionate about the promotion of the women’s golf team in its inception.
“He really thought it was extremely important for women to have the opportunity to play. … It was really about equality,” women’s golf coach Jan Dowling said.
Charlie was always incredibly interested in making the course more playable and providing opportunities for all people to play and participate.
Dowling said Charlie wanted to “grow the game” and make the course more accessible. Dowling recounted a story about the “women’s” tees at the course.
“They’re not the ‘women’s tees,’ he calls them the maize tees,” Dowling said. “Guys can play it, girls can play it, it was really all about equality.”
To commemorate his passion for women’s sports, the women’s golf league at the course has a tournament named in his honor.
Charlie’s presence in the clubhouse was an important one. He played a vital role for so many members of the golf teams, and his story and contributions will be commemorated by course-goers for years to come.