By BOB HARIG
© St. Petersburg Times,
published May 31, 2001
The opinions are coming from more than just the Supreme Court, and some compelling arguments have been made on both sides of the Casey Martin issue.
The subject of whether the disabled golfer should be allowed to ride a cart in competition is a debate student's dream, because taking a stance and making a case can be done in so many ways from each direction.
Yet one issue cannot be debated, whether you believe Martin should be allowed a cart or not: Riding does not give him an advantage over other golfers.
Martin's withered right leg gets so sore and swollen that just the typical journeys from green to cart, from cart to tee box, can be as strenuous as walking the entire course is to a player with two healthy legs.
Justice John Paul Stevens said as much in the majority opinion of the ruling that gave Martin the win in his case against the PGA Tour. Stevens noted that Martin may walk only 11/2 miles during a round, compared with four or five for the rest of the contestants. But his journey is just as strenuous.
PGA Tour pros are rightly concerned about their rules being determined by justices who play the game leisurely, not in competition for millions of dollars. Indeed, stamina plays a role in the waning holes of a major championship when the body and mind must perform in unison to hit a ball so precisely. If you don't think Tiger Woods' physical conditioning has helped him win four straight major championships, you're not much of a golf fan.
If Martin were coming down the stretch against Woods, would the cart give him an advantage? Doubtful. It's unlikely Woods would think that way, so strong is his game. The only thing a cart does for Martin is allow him to compete. Without one, he could not play.
Martin, who has made four cuts in eight Buy.com Tour events, hardly feels like he has benefited this year.
"It would be my wish, my prayer, that I would start playing great and I could look at this time and see a change in the way my golf game goes," Martin said. "But I don't think there is any guarantee that is going to happen."
MAJOR IMPACT ON SPORTS?: Many were quick to speculate that the Supreme Court's ruling will have a big effect on other sports. Martin has a hard time believing it.
"Some of the analogies are not realistic, and somewhat troublesome," he said. "I don't foresee this having a major impact. In 10 years I don't think you'll look back and say this changed pro sports. There are just not that many disabled athletes who can compete at an elite level. But golf is the one sport where you could see it again."
U.S. OPEN QUALIFYING: Tuesday's 36-hole sectional qualifier at Old Memorial in Tampa promises to be quite a competition. Three spots will be available for the 101st U.S. Open, to be played June 14-17 at Tulsa's Southern Hills. A field of 56 pros and 10 amateurs will compete for those spots.
Among those competing will be Old Memorial members Gary Koch and John "Spider" Miller, both of whom hold course records at the club. Former tour winner Andy Bean is in the field, as are several others who have competed in a U.S. Open, including Bruce Zabriski, the head pro at Trump International in West Palm Beach. Land O'Lakes' Keith Kulzer, who qualified for the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, is in the field.
Others competing are PGA Tour players Michael Bradley, Doug Dunakey and Steve Hart; TPC of Tampa Bay head pro Val D'Souza; University of Florida golf coach Buddy Alexander, and acclaimed amateur Doug LaCrosse of Tampa, whose has 15 state titles but has never competed in a U.S. Open.
AROUND GOLF: Even Jim Thorpe, who finished second by a shot to Tom Watson at the Senior PGA Championship, said Watson's victory was good for the Senior PGA Tour. "The best player did win," Thorpe said. "This is a bigger feather in the senior tour's cap than it would have been if I'd won the tournament. No disrespect to anybody else, but I'm glad Tom won it." ... Steve Stricker was the big loser when Frank Lickliter won the Kemper Insurance Open on Monday. Lickliter moved into the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list, earning a U.S. Open exemption by the deadline. Stricker, who despite winning the season-opening Match Play Championship and its $1-million first prize, was unable to stay among the top-10 money winners. He also dropped out of the top 50 in the World Ranking, another exemption.
- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.