Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It has been a while, but Casey Martin is
once again, a major story in the world of golf.
This time, it has nothing to do with amicus briefs, or leg amputation, but for
his ability to put that elusive little white ball in the center of the cup.
On Monday, in fading daylight at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Ore,
Martin earned medalist honors at the 36-hole U.S. Open qualifier.
Casey Martin returns to Olympic Club, the site of his only U.S. Open
appearance 14 years ago. He tied for 23rd in 1998, riding his cart, just like
he did at the qualifier on Monday.
If you don't remember the name Casey Martin, do yourself a favor and look him
up. Briefly, he was born with Klippel Trenaunay Weber syndrome in his right
leg and walking is excruciating.
Martin sued the tour in 2001 for the right to use a golf cart during
competition under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The tour and many stars
like Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and even Martin's Stanford teammate,
Tiger Woods, came out against him and his stance, saying that riding a cart
could offer an unfair advantage, even though they are legal on the Champions
Tour and Palmer had been seen riding in one.
It's worth noting that Martin didn't WANT to use a cart, he HAD to. Walking
could've caused the need for an amputation if he tripped or did something that
could happen to anyone.
Martin went to the nine judges in Washington, they found for him and Martin
played a little bit of tour golf. He fell off the map, lost his status, became
the head coach at the University of Oregon, and on Monday, qualified for his
"It means a lot," Martin told Golf Channel. "I mean I haven't really had a lot
of time to think about it. It's just with the national championship (Oregon
made it to the NCAAs last week), I was just so involved in that."
Martin actually beat one of his players to get there on Monday. Daniel
Miernicki plays at Oregon and he and Nick Sherwood lost to old, (he's now 40),
Mr. Martin by a stroke on Monday.
This Martin saga always played as one of those things where you were totally
against him, or totally with him. There was no half-way, it was all-in or
Those stars were not shy in their positions. Palmer and Nicklaus offered any
assistance needed to the tour. They felt this man, who gets no blood flow to
the lower part of his leg, was given an unfair advantage in getting to ride a
Forget for a moment that the tour allowed carts at Champions Tour events, or
that, according to Rick Reilly, in a Sports Illustrated column 14 years ago,
doctors told Martin he probably would need the leg amputated, where does the
competitive imbalance come in?
Wasn't it fair to say that since he was essentially crippled, he needed just a
little assistance? Tour officials worried then that it could lead to others
using a cart, but where is common sense in all of this? How about if you're
handicapped, you get help working at your job, but if your back is tight, well
you're out of luck?
Not seeing that distinction is mind-boggling to me, but the Supremes held up
his position and Martin got to play.
Problem was, by 2006, his career was just about over. He failed to get any
status during Q Schools and this dream had ended.
He coached the Oregon team, went out for one more shot at it and succeeded.
"I really haven't even thought about this," Martin said. "So I just kind of
went and played golf. And amazingly for not playing in nine days before this
tournament, or before today, I played great. I hit a lot of great shots. I was
choking down the stretch, I mean, but I hit a lot of great shots. I was kind
of, I was enjoying it. It was kind of different. So I liked it."
Everyone should have liked it.
Martin said how much effort and work he put into the Oregon run at the NCAA
title. They lost in the semifinals of the team match-play portion, but Martin
gave everything he had to his team without caring about how he did in the U.S.
For a sport right now that has its biggest star in an eternal struggle to gain
back personal respect after flushing several lives down the toilet with
selfishness, another who withdrew last week for "mental fatigue" after
returning from a European vacation, and a third who's missed the last three
cuts and admitted to not practicing hard, Martin is a breath of fresh air.
His chances of making the cut aren't great, but after his performance on
Monday, and subsequent research of what Olympic-level jerks some of these
elite icons were, I'm rooting hard for Martin.
You should too.
- Tiger Woods won't be truly back until he wins a major, but his ball-striking
and presence Sunday was vintage. He will be the favorite at Olympic Club next
week, but this is almost exactly what we went through at the Masters after his
win at the Arnold Palmer. Woods will play the courses he's most comfortable at
well, and the others will be a crap-shoot.
- Phil Mickelson's withdrawal Thursday after a 79 was close to pathetic.
Mickelson doesn't do this sort of thing and some theorized this was a way to
protest the tour's poor handling of cell phones at events. No matter how you
slice this, especially considering he returned from a European vacation, this
was a poor use of judgement. Mickelson generally doesn't do these sorts of
things and has been a great ambassador for the game, so we'll call this a
momentary lapse in judgment.
- Rory McIlroy's third missed cut in a row is officially troubling. He fought
hard Thursday to overcome a quadruple-bogey, but seemed to have no fight on
Friday when the cut line moved farther away from him. He is not in good shape
to defend his U.S. Open title.
- Majors for both the Champions Tour and LPGA Tour this week. I'll take Tom
Lehman and Yani Tseng to both successfully defend.
- Movie moment - I love movies with inaccurate titles like "The Pursuit of
Happyness" with Will Smith. That film is two hours of agony with five minutes
of happiness at the end. This week I watched "The Perfect Storm" and I get the
irony, but that is far from perfect. Amazing visuals in the film though.
- TV moment - I was genuinely saddened by the deaths of Richard Dawson and
Kathryn Joosten. Dawson was the kissing host of "Family Feud" and as a
lifelong game show guy, coupled with the fact that since my son's early wake-
up time, I've been into "Match Game," I was bummed. Joosten played one of the
best small characters than mean a lot as Mrs. Landingham on "The West Wing."
Her death on the show triggered some of the greatest television in my life.
The Sports Network