If anyone should be in Casey Martin's corner, it's Warren LaMar of Augusta.
The 67-year-old LaMar lost his leg at age 5 and has a prothesis which starts above his knee.
Like Martin, the legally disabled Nike Tour golfer who has a congenital circulatory problem in his right leg, LaMar would be unable to play the game regularly if not for the use of a golf cart.
"I've got mixed emotions on this," LaMar said of the court case in which Martin is suing the PGA Tour to allow him to ride. "I'm a traditionalist and I hate to see traditions change. I remember what Arnold Palmer said when he came out against riding carts on the Senior PGA Tour (where carts are allowed). He said if you can't cut the mustard, get out of golf.
"I can understand his (Martin's) problem," LaMar said. "His leg is not going to get any better. At some point, he's probably going to have to quit playing. If I had a vote, I believe I'd vote against him because I'm a traditionalist at heart."
Public sentiment is with Martin, who won the Nike Tour season opener last week but missed the cut this week. However, prominent golf figures in the area hope he loses his suit, which is scheduled to go to trial in Eugene, Ore., on Feb. 2. It was only under terms of a temporary injunction that Martin was allowed to play in the first two Nike Tour events.
"I'm not saying anything against Casey or knocking him down because he's shown a lot of heart, but if the rule is changed, it would change the tour so much," said Layne Williams, the Georgia State Golf Association's senior director of rules and competition. "How would you like a bunch of golf carts riding all over the Augusta National? The Masters wouldn't have the same aura, would it?"
Former Augustan Stiles Mitchell of Baton Rouge, La., who like Martin is exempt for the Nike Tour this year, is torn on the issue.
"I don't know what the right choice here is," Mitchell said. "I've stayed kind of neutral on this thing. The Golf Channel has asked me about this about 10 times. I'm just glad I'm not in his position. I have the opportunity to walk and enjoy playing golf and he doesn't. My thing is I want to stress that he's a great player and a great kid. He just wants to play golf. But I don't see having carts on the PGA Tour. There would be too much commotion."
If Martin wins the case, it could have far-reaching implications in all sports. It would mean the judicial system could tell a organization how to run its sport.
"In my opinion," Williams said, "somebody such as the PGA Tour should have the right to set the conditions for the competition, be it walking or the one-ball rule. If this gets out, it will open up a can of worms. I'd hate to see where it goes."
Williams hasn't had to deal
with the issue. Golfers are permitted to ride carts in all Georgia State Golf Association events with the exception of the Junior Championship.
"The PGA Tour has been in existence for many years and they've set a precedent," said West Lake head pro Mark Darnell. "If someone elects to play the tour, they know that (walking) is a condition of play when they enter the tournament. Jack Nicklaus has developed a serious hip problem as he's gotten older. If he could ride a golf cart on the PGA Tour, he'd play a lot more."
If Martin is allowed to ride under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Williams says Martin would have an unfair advantage over the other golfers who would be walking.
"It's an advantage and any advantage is too much," Williams said. "At the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1994, Chris Patton had to quit after eight holes because of exhaustion. Let's say he'd been able to ride a cart. Do you think he would have withdrawn? Probably not."
"I think it is an advantage on rain delay days when you have to make up holes," Mitchell said. "As far as him riding 18 holes, I don't think so."
One of Martin's strongest supporters is Wally Goodwin, the golf coach at Stanford, where Martin played collegiately before graduating in 1995. He was a member of the 1994 national championship team.
"Probably most of the people in the United States are on Casey's side," Goodwin said. "I`ve known him most of his life and I know his lifelong dream is to play professional golf. It would be great for him (if Martin wins the court case)."
Goodwin said Martin rode a golf cart in about 10 percent of the Stanford tournaments, insisting on walking whenever he could. The circulation problem in his right leg, known as Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, was not as pronounced then as it is now.
"He never wanted to give in," Goodwin said. "I'd have other coaches begging me to get a cart for Casey. He walked as long as he could. He has never given up on anything in life."
"This is a tough one, really," Williams said. "Everybody is following it to see what will happen. The sad thing about it is either way it goes, nobody's going to win."
It would be refreshing if the PGA, instead of a U.S. court, decided Martin's future. Wouldn't it be special if, instead of being so stubbornly reactionary, the PGA found a way to change the rules and make this work?
His win at Lakeland was a firm reminder that Martin's illness doesn't prevent him from making shots. He doesn't need a special club to whack his way out of the rough.
The PGA Tour is about scoring and shot making, not about how you get from shot to shot.
Martin doesn't need some souped-up driver to compete with the long hitters. He doesn't need an elongated putter to fight the yips.
He has all of the skills. He uses the same clubs. He makes the shots.
Still, the shrill whining from some of the Tour's players this week was deafening.
... The trophy for the most insensitive and stupid remark comes from Brad Faxon, who said, "I don't see guys in the NFL who have knee injuries getting mo-peds."
Yo, Brad! You can't play football on a mo-ped, just as you can't play golf from a cart. Transportation isn't the issue here.
Golf never has been a sport that easily accepts minorities, whether it is African-Americans, women, or, in Martin's case, people with disabilities.
Here is an opportunity to do something good. This is a time to give a man a chance.
Let Casey Martin play.
Steve Kelley, The Seattle Times
Right now, some think the PGA Tour should make a new rule that, in effect, would say: Anyone born with Klippel Trenaunay Weber Syndrome can ride a cart when they play pro golf. Wouldn't that be a decent, common-sense solution to Casey Martin's case?
If only it were so.
Walking is an integral part of tournament golf. Hiking 25 miles in four days tests endurance, especially in summer. It's no accident that golf's top stars -- Woods, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Phil Mickelson -- are flat-bellies who look like athletes. They are.
Ken Venturi once won the U.S. Open by playing the final 36 holes on Sunday in 98 degree Washington heat. Doctors attended him throughout the final 18 holes to make sure he didn't collapse from dehydration. Ben Hogan won the U.S. Open after recovering from a near-fatal car crash. Legend maintains that the walking was as tough for Hogan as the golf. Jack Nicklaus said the most difficult aspect of winning the Masters at age 46 may have been walking Augusta National for four days. "With all those hills, that's a young man's course," he said.
Ironically, Martin's victory on Sunday did not make the case for him so much as it made the case against him. Look at Steve Lamontagne, the player who finished second, one shot behind Martin. On Friday, he had novocaine shots for pain from an ingrown toe nail. On Saturday, he had the nail surgically removed. On Saturday and Sunday, he played with the top of his golf shoe cut off.
Think Lamontagne might have liked a cart, too?
If the Tour or the courts let Martin ride a cart, then plenty of other players will be in line the next day. And they should be. The top all-around player in Tour stats last year was Bill Glasson, No. 22 on the money list. He'd have earned more except that, due to four knee surgeries and a chronically bad back, Glasson only entered 19 events. Doesn't he need a cart? Sure, Martin was born with his condition while Glasson got his injuries later. But does a handicapped parking space distinguish between "Born that way" and "Became that way"?
Thomas Boswell, The Washington Post
Endurance? Golf? You can't be serious. Wasn't Jack Nicklaus a tubby for much of his storied career? They don't call Craig Stadler the Walrus for his killer abs, do they?
But (PGA Tour commissioner Tim) Finchem is serious, and he has a point. Have you ever tried to walk 18 holes in July in Memphis? Or how about 36 holes, the product of the inevitable rainouts on the PGA Tour?
In fact, the Nike event that Martin won in Florida was delayed by rain. Martin played 25 holes Saturday in a cart, while many of his rivals walked 25-35 holes. That's clearly an advantage, an advantage that might have accounted for Martin's one-shot victory, an advantage that might deny one of Martin's peers a top-30 finish on the year-end Nike money list and the accompanying PGA Tour playing privileges for 1999.
By David Teel, Newport News (Va.) Daily Press