Golf pro Casey Martin won his U.S. Supreme Court case against PGA Tour, Inc. and gets to keep his golf cart.
The U.S. Open is rolling out its 112th edition on Thursday. San Francisco’s Olympic Club, now in its 152nd year, will host the tournament on one of its three golf courses (Lake Course).
Anybody can play in the U.S. Open if you have a USGA men’s handicap index of 1.4 or below, 150 bucks entry fee, and can play well enough to get through local and sectional qualifiers.
Don’t worry about child-labor laws. A 15-year-old Hawaiian kid, Tadd Fujikawa, teed up in 2006. Beau Hossler, from 80 miles up the road in Rancho Santa Margarita, qualified for the U.S. Open last year. He was 16 and a sophomore at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. Now he’s a junior and has qualified again.
Casey Martin, 40, is here. Remember him? He turned pro in 1995, played on the minor-league circuit. He qualified for the U.S. Open one time, in 1998, made the cut and finished tied for 23rd, one shot behind Tiger Woods. Martin lasted one year on the PGA Tour, wrapped up his 2000 season 179th on the money list, quickly sent down to minor league and Q-school hell. His career ended in 2006. That year he entered five events, made the cut once, earned $1328. In all, Martin won one minor-league tournament, the Lake Land Classic.
Which doesn’t mean Martin didn’t have a life or make a buck. Career earnings were $459,438. In 2006, he was named head coach of the University of Oregon’s golf team, a big school, big time, national golf program. Martin was dubbed Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 2010.
In 1997 Martin sued the PGA Tour, Inc. for the right to use a golf cart. He has a rare circulatory condition, Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, which restricts blood flow to his right leg, causing weakness and extreme pain, making it unbearable for him to walk the length of a golf course. According to a Tanya Sharpe paper published in the Florida Law Review, his right leg is about half the girth of his left and he has no primary vein. The condition is serious, at some point he may need to have his leg amputated.
So, he wanted to ride a cart when he played golf. Seemed fair enough to me, but PGA Tour, Inc. went Charlie Sheen crazy on him. There has always been a suspicion that golf is not really a sport and Golf World, being the sensitive entity that it is, was terrified paying customers would see a PGA Tour, Inc. golf pro riding in a golf cart, thereby reinforcing that stereotype. The fact that Martin had every reason to ride around in a golf cart was no matter.
So, Golf World, in the form of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus stood against him. Woods, who was a teammate of Martin’s on the Stanford golf team, said that from a playing standpoint, having a cart could be an advantage. Arnold Palmer testified against Martin. Jack Nicklaus testified against him as well. Nicklaus said, on a February 12, 1998, Nightline program, that carts look bad on television. He thought allowing the use of golf carts would set off a golf-cart land rush.
You let one guy with Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome who can consistently shoot under par ride a golf cart, then you have to let all the people with Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome who can consistently shoot under par ride a golf cart. PGA Tour, Inc. would be overwhelmed by CART PEOPLE.
Because the PGA Tour, Inc. kept appealing, the case was in the judicial system for three years. Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court, like every other court that heard the case, decided for Martin. That was May, 2001.
Since then the PGA Tour, Inc. has been overwhelmed with let-me-ride-a-golf-cart applications. In 2008, Erik Compton was recovering from his second heart transplant, and wouldn’t you know it, the cheating little bastard applied to PGA Tour, Inc. for permission to ride a golf cart.
You let one guy with two heart transplants who can consistently shoot under par ride a golf cart, then you have to let all the guys with two heart transplants who can consistently shoot under par ride a golf cart.
Casey Martin hasn’t played a pro tournament in six years, but last week, after the sun went down, as darkness crept in on the Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Oregon, he sunk a five-foot par putt on the last hole of a sectional qualifier to earn a spot in the 2012 Open.
His golf cart qualified as well.
U.S. Open start times: Casey Martin, 12:45 p.m. Thursday, 7:00 a.m. Friday; Beau Hossler, 7:15 a.m. Thursday, 12:30 p.m. Friday.