Out of the Rough: Casey Martin is back
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 national championship.
"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 nothing.
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 cart.
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. Open qualifier.
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 that mean a lot as Mrs. Landingham on "The West Wing." Her death on the show triggered some of the greatest television in my life.