On His Last Leg

June 03, 2001

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision on PGA
Tour, Inc. v. Casey Martin any day now, so I want to update you
on how Martin and his cart are ruining the game of golf.

I caddied for Martin two weeks ago at the Richmond Open on the
Buy.com tour and found out the cart is a huge competitive
advantage for him. For instance, when he's in the cart, the pain
in his diseased right leg stops for minutes at a time. Of course,
when he's standing, the pain comes back. And, of course, it's
worse on uphill lies and sidehill lies, and when he gets down to
read putts.

True, the cart is no help when he'd like to practice but can't,
because standing too long makes his leg throb like a bass drum.
Or when he'd like to work out. Or run. Or bike. The cart doesn't
help him sleep, either, which he does in two-hour chunks some
nights, mostly between swallows of Advil. He's up to eight or 12
tablets a day.

O.K., the cart doesn't help him when some ol' boy comes up to his
table, slaps him on the leg and says, "Howzit goin'?" and Martin
looks as if he might faint from the pain. And the cart doesn't
stop all the camera crews and gawkers and busybodies from coming
up to him during a round so they can chastise him or tell him
he's their hero. In Richmond a kid with a prosthesis limped up to
Martin to shake his hand. That might've been a little
distracting, because Martin's doctors tell him that they'll
probably be fitting him for one of those down the road.

And I noticed he doesn't embrace the cart for the cheating
boondoggle that it is. "I hate the cart," Martin said. "I hate
playing golf in it. I hate being the center of attention. People
don't come to see me play golf. They come to see me limp."

He showed me his leg in his room one night. I asked to see it,
actually. He stood up, took off his pants and then the two nylon
restraining stockings on his right leg that are supposed to keep
down the swelling. What was underneath looked like a baseball bat
somebody had used to hit a thousand rocks.

"Watch the blood drain into it," he said. Over the next two
minutes that bony stick of a leg started turning purple and
globby and marbled right in front of my eyes, bloating to twice
its diameter. Grotesque pools of blood gathered in his hip, knee,
ankle. He let me run my hand gingerly along his shin, which felt
like a long, fat sandwich bag filled with spaghetti and
meatballs. It was fascinating, except I felt like throwing up.

And he plays golf with that leg--six days some weeks. But that's
no reason to give him the cart, right? Hasn't Martin ruined the
fundamental nature of golf? Every day now, don't we see disabled
pros tearing up the tours? O.K., no other disabled person has
even come close to being good enough, but you just know that
hordes of cripples who can break 70 are coming soon, right?

In truth, Martin hasn't broken 70 much lately, either. He lost
his card on the PGA Tour after last year, and he has made only
four cuts in eight tries in his return to the bush leagues this
year. The limp gets worse every month. Yet he's never withdrawn
from a tournament.

Maybe he should've bowed out in Richmond. He was playing pretty
well in the first round until he got to 17, where he suddenly
started swinging like Richard Nixon and limping back to his cart
like Chester. "Something tweaked in my leg," he whispered.
Three-hundred-yard drives were now 200. He bogeyed that hole and
the next, and wound up missing the cut by two shots.

Still, we must protect the sanctity of the game! So don't give
in, Supreme Court.

When the ruling comes down against Martin, don't go soft, Tour
commissioner Tim Finchem. Don't grandfather him in for however
long he has until the leg snaps, as so many pros, including Jack
Nicklaus, have suggested. And, hey, Tiger Woods, don't speak up
for your old Stanford teammate, because you haven't so far.
Besides, that leg might miraculously heal itself, and Martin
would suddenly jump up and finish within 20 shots of you.

Ladies and gentlemen of golf, this is no time for weakness. After
all, we've got a game to think of.

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA

Casey Martin's bony stick of a leg turned purple and marbled
right in front of my eyes.

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)