In newsroom lingo the story of Casey Martin v. the PGA Tour has
legs. Martin's mother, while working the phones at home in
Eugene, Ore., once did 14 interviews in one day. Martin's
father, a stockbroker at Smith Barney, has obliged so many
reporters that for him the word quote is taking on new meaning.
Lawyers for both the Tour and Martin have been besieged. "We
certainly have been put on the map the last couple of weeks,"
says Phyllis Bishoff, a secretary for William Wiswall, one of
Martin's attorneys. Through it all, Martin, 25, continues to
commit news at speeds of up to 12 mph.
Driving a golf cart, like wearing short pants or carrying 15
clubs, is a no-no on Tour. Martin, whose right leg is withered
from Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, a congenital circulatory
condition, aims to change that. He wants a cart for his rookie
season on the Nike tour, and for every season thereafter. The
PGA Tour, which governs the Nike, says walking is a fundamental
part of its competition. Barring an out-of-court settlement, or
a summary judgment for the Tour at a Jan. 26 hearing, the case
is scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 2 in U.S. district court in
Somehow, when he wasn't busy publicly arguing his case, Martin
won the Nike tour's first event of 1998, last week's Lakeland
(Fla.) Classic at Grasslands Golf and Country Club. He shot 69
on Sunday to beat Steve Lamontagne by a stroke. The tournament
was one of two (the other is this week's South Florida Classic)
in which Martin can use a cart, a stipulation that was agreed
upon by lawyers for Martin and the Tour. To grasp the improbable
nature of the victory, consider that when Martin limped to the
1st tee last Thursday, he was acutely aware that as a result of
the controversy surrounding his case, he was about to take the
most scrutinized swing of his life. "If you could only know what
was going through my head," Martin said. "Don't top it. Don't
shank it. Don't shoot 90 with all these people watching."
Martin birdied three of his first four holes on his way to a
six-under 66, which put him a shot off the lead. He followed
with a 69 and a 65 in the second and third rounds, each of which
was played over two days because of inclement weather. He made
five birdies and two bogeys on Sunday and took home a
first-place check worth $40,500, an excellent start toward his
January 19, 1998
While Martin's victory brought even more attention to his case,
and might even win him public support, he isn't the first to
bring the cart question to the fore. Charlie Owens, who was
injured in a parachuting accident while in the Army, petitioned
the USGA for permission to use a cart for the 1987 U.S. Senior
Open. Permission was denied, and to protest, Owens walked the
first nine holes on crutches before he withdrew. A request by
Lee Elder--he suffered a mild heart attack in 1987 and has had
physical problems on and off since then--for a cart for the '95
Senior Open was also denied. Martin, however, is taking his
fight to court through the Americans with Disabilities Act,
giving him something under the hood that neither Owens nor Elder
Give the kid a cart and let's play. He's not injured. He's
True, but Owens and his Erector set knees didn't get a cart.
Rocco Mediate and his bad back, Jose Maria Olazabal and his
gimpy foot, they didn't ride. Heck, even Ben Hogan himself could
have used a lift. It's a little late to start handing out keys
on the 1st tee.
Martin's condition is rare. When he was born, doctors looked at
his abnormal right leg and said it looked different because of a
birth mark. His parents soon suspected it was more than that
because Casey sometimes woke up in the middle of the night
crying in pain. Martin was four when the family got an accurate
diagnosis. Blood was pooling in his lower right leg, a painful
condition that would forever hamper his mobility. Martin was a
good shooter for his school basketball team in the sixth and
seventh grades but had to constantly ice his knee, where blood
would settle, eroding the cartilage. The pain wasn't worth it,
and he didn't follow his brother Cameron onto the varsity at
South Eugene High. Instead, Martin played the piano. He became a
ferocious learner, developing the study habits that would make
him a two-time Academic All-America at Stanford as a golfer.
"This is what I've wanted to do since I was a kid," says Martin
of a career on Tour. He started playing at age six, sometimes
with a splint on his leg. Walking, although painful, was his
transportation of choice. At Stanford, where he played from 1990
to '95, Martin competed on foot as a freshman and a sophomore.
As a junior, Martin says, the condition worsened. He developed
shinsplints and asked for a cart for the '94 NCAA Championship,
in McKinney, Texas. The NCAA consented.
Everyone is speaking out in the case of Casey Martin Plaintiff
v. the PGA Tour Inc. of Maryland Corporation. Owens showed up
for the first round at Lakeland, only 30 miles from his home in
Tampa, and introduced himself after Martin teed off on the 11th
hole. "That meant a lot to see him," Martin says. "Wow, he's a
big, strong guy. He told me walking away, 'It's not how, it's
how many.'" Brian Henninger, Peter Jacobsen and Eric Johnson,
all fellow pros from Oregon, have also been supportive.
On the other side, the side of tradition, Arnold Palmer was
vocal on the cart issue with Owens and is expected to give a
video deposition in support of the Tour's position. Some other
pros are right behind him. "It's better for the game if we all
walk," says Jeff Gallagher, who competed against Martin last
month at Q school. It was at that grueling event, Dec. 3-8 at
Grenelefe Resort in Haines City, Fla., that Martin first took on
the Tour. He rode a cart for all six rounds, thanks to a
temporary injunction issued by U.S. Magistrate Thomas Coffin,
who will preside over next month's trial. Scott Verplank agrees
with Gallagher, even though Verplank, who won the Q school by
six strokes, was one of about 15 other pros to take advantage of
the ruling and also ride at Grenelefe. "I'm sure when this thing
goes to court, we're going to be walking," Verplank says.
Other pros can see both sides of the case. "If we could make an
exception in this one case, I might be for it," Phil Mickelson
says. "Casey is a great player and a good guy, but you have to
ask yourself, Could Olazabal have played last year if he had a
cart? Where does it end?"
After leaving Stanford, Martin walked during his two years on
the Hooters mini-tour. Sometimes he would play Tommy Armour
mini-tour events because that tour allowed carts. Those were the
rules, and Martin abided by them. He curtailed his schedule,
staying on tour for a few weeks then going home for a few weeks
to rest his leg. In 1996 he almost won the Hooters Classic in
Charlotte, N.C., but lost on the first playoff hole to Dicky
Thompson. Martin isn't sure how good he can get if he is allowed
to ride, but the Lakeland results were certainly encouraging.
The issue is expected to be resolved before the third Nike event
of the season, the March 5-8 Greater Austin Open.
Aw, let him ride. Who cares if one guy drives a cart? Last I
checked, great acceleration and cornering on dogleg par-5s
didn't matter much on the scorecard.
Forget it. Give Martin a cart and watch the PGA become the
PG-AAA, especially when guys have to play 36 holes in one day.
Or they're just tired. Or injured. Or it hails Titleists.
Though any one of the 168 players in the final stage of last
month's Q school could have ridden, only Martin was given a cart
for the Lakeland and South Florida tournaments. Even his
staunchest supporters concede that that might not be fair.
"Casey deserves to have the opportunity to try to make a
living," says Greg Jones, founder and president of the
Association of Disabled American Golfers, an advocacy group
based in Denver. "At the same time, if he has a cart and it's
100 degrees and 90 percent humidity, there certainly is the
potential to change the competitive nature of the game."
Wiswall has an answer for that. He points out that if two fit
men go off the 1st tee, one with a cart, the other without,
there's a problem. But if one disabled man goes off in a cart
and the other walks, then maybe it's fair. Maybe a cart is an
equalizer, not an advantage. "We're talking about Casey's
condition here," Wiswall says, "not anybody else's."
Martin's condition can be seen with the heart. The Tour's
position can be seen with the brain and is bound to be popular
with purists, though even Tour officials know they may be
perceived differently by the rest of society. "If this goes to
trial and they win," Martin says, "I don't know if they really
win." After Martin's win on Sunday, Tour commissioner Tim
Finchem reasserted the Tour's position, saying that the Tour
retains "the right to determine the conditions of competition,
including requiring...players to walk."
This is golf. Last I checked, it wasn't timed, and hole
position, not pole position, mattered most. Did I miss something?
No, but in a five-hour round, roughly five minutes are spent
hitting the ball. The rest of the time you're chasing it.
Wiswall says he would like to settle out of court. A settlement,
though, seems unlikely. To negate Martin's trump card, the ADA,
the Tour will argue that it's a private, not a public,
enterprise. "The ADA does apply to golf courses, but only to the
extent that they're places people go," says Edward Moorehouse,
the Tour's chief legal officer. "Our tournaments do make
accommodations to make spectating available to those with
handicaps, but when you get inside the ropes, it's not a public
Martin's case is bound to affect other players and
organizations, among them the USGA. "If I lose this case, then
I'm sure [the USGA] won't let me have a cart," Martin says. "But
if I were to win this and attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open,
I would hope the USGA would go along with the ruling." The same
goes for the PGA Championship, the Masters and the British Open,
each of which also has the power to set its own rules.
Martin, of course, would rather walk. Doctors tell him his leg
is getting worse and may eventually need to be amputated above
the knee. "They're afraid if I step in a hole, I'll break it,"
Martin says. "If I break it, I could lose it." Because Martin's
career is most likely limited and because he proved he can play
at the Lakeland Classic, his case has taken on greater urgency
and importance. Nevertheless, as he withstands incessant press
coverage, rebuts statements from Finchem and receives
encouragement from well-wishers, Martin has retained not only
his concentration but also his sense of humor. During the first
round at Lakeland, he was driving down a cart path when he
passed a two-man TV crew lugging camera equipment. "You guys
need a cart to carry all that stuff around," Martin said.
"We asked," one of them replied, "but the Tour won't let us have
"Let me introduce you to my attorney," Martin said. "He'll fix
you right up."