Give Casey Martin a Lift

February 09, 1998

Casey Martin has a right leg two sizes too small and a heart
three sizes too big. His doctors say chances are good he'll lose
that leg, maybe someday soon. He'll step in a gopher hole or he
won't see a tee marker, and his balsa tibia will snap. When it
snaps, the leg will probably have to come off. "I only have so
many steps left in it," Martin says.

Won't that be a proud moment for Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus
and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem? And won't all the others
who've tried to stop the kid from using a cart--to preserve the
"purity" of the game--be feeling awfully noble then? Maybe
they'll stand on their two strong legs in their mahogany trophy
rooms and drink to their integrity.

Shame on them. Shame on their lawyers. Shame on every
self-important and greedy Tour pro who won't budge an inch of
tradition to fit in a spoonful of compassion.

Of course Martin should get a cart. Anybody with a bus token for
a heart knows that. Golf fans want to see golfers play golf.
I've never heard anybody yet say, "Hey, let's get over to 9 and
watch Seve walk!" Fans don't care if a pro walks, rides or
pogo-sticks to the next shot--they just want to see him hit it.

The 25-year-old Martin isn't asking for any help playing the
game. He's only asking for a lift to his ball. Golf isn't an
obstacle course. Any blimp can walk 18 holes. Exhibit A: Fat
Jack, who ate up every tournament he entered, including the
buffet tables. Hey, who leads the Tour stats in Holes Walked,
anyway?

Look, I've heard all the arguments against Martin's using a
cart, and I wouldn't give you a warm pitcher of spit for any of
them. PGA Tour officials say they're trying to protect the
"tradition" of the game. If that sounds familiar, it's the word
they trotted out in the 1950s to keep blacks off the Tour.
Here's golf busy celebrating Tiger Woods and the game's new
diversity, but, yo, fellas, diversity isn't just about color.
Diversity is a guy wearing a leg-long bandage whose knee aches
every minute he's on it, trying to prove something to himself
and, by the way, to the world.

Martin is suing the PGA Tour for a cart, citing the Americans
with Disabilities Act. But the PGA Tour says carts would tilt
the level playing field. Then why are carts allowed during the
Tour qualifying stages? And on the Senior tour? Arnie himself,
the one who testified against Martin in a deposition two weeks
ago, rode one on the Senior tour last year. Please.

The PGA Tour says it's a slippery slope. If Martin gets a cart,
does Fred Couples get one for his back? Jose Maria Olazabal for
his feet? No problem. The rule will be simple: If you qualify
for disabled parking, we'll give you a cart.

The people who invoke that "purity" argument are the same ones
who whined about yardage markers, gallery ropes, metal drivers,
the "hot" ball, cavity-backed irons, the long putter and soft
spikes. They've all arrived, and, last I checked, golf is more
popular than ever.

I hear old guys wheezing on about Ben Hogan's having to walk
during his comeback after crashing into a bus. Do you think what
Martin has done is any less brave? He suffers from a rare
circulatory disorder, and doctors say his condition is
"worsening." The minute he takes the two support stockings off
his right leg, it swells up like a bagpipe. He's in pain 24
hours a day, so now he has trouble sleeping too. During his
swing he turns on a leg as skinny as a Little Leaguer's bat. Yet
he won the Lakeland Classic on the Nike tour last month. What,
only Hogan gets to be a legend?

"Casey Martin has a window here," says his surgeon, Don Jones,
"and the window gets smaller every day."

Listen, a brawler like this comes along once in a lifetime.
Martin says if he loses the trial, which started on Monday, he's
going to try to walk. This kid is willing to trade a leg for his
dream. They both get more brittle every day. This is no slippery
slope. This is the Eiger, and Martin has damn near climbed it.
If all these purists in their plaid pants and self-important
frowns would step back a foot, he could get there while there's
still time.

Nicklaus has said that if Martin is allowed to ride a cart,
we'll "lose the game of golf forever the way we know it."

Well, thank god.

B/W PHOTO: ROBERT BECK [Rick Reilly]

Shame on every greedy Tour pro who won't budge an inch of
tradition to fit in a spoonful of compassion.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)