CHICAGO -- The executive director of the United States Golf Association recommends that his organization not stand in the way of Casey Martin if he wants to play in the U.S. Open -- but with a stipulation. If Martin wants to ride, it won't be in a traditional golf cart.
The USGA's David Fay believes if Martin reaches the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, he should traverse the course in a single-person, scooter-like device made for golf.
Fay believes that vehicle would be less intrusive and easier for Martin to maneuver through galleries on the course.
"We would provide him with automatic transportation," Fay said. "But he does not need a golf cart designed for two people. What we are providing Casey Martin is a means of transportation used by many disabled Americans."
Fay qualifies his statement, saying he hopes the USGA won't be faced with the decision before the Open in June. The PGA Tour is appealing U.S. Magistrate Thomas Coffin's decision to allow Martin to use a cart in pro competition, but it could take up to 24 months before an appeal is heard.
Because the USGA was not a party in the suit, it theoretically could force Martin to go back to court to replay the trial for the Open. The USGA is adamant about its walking-only rule, even going as far as to not allow the older players to use carts for the U.S. Senior Open.
Thanks to a victory on the Nike Tour, Martin is exempt from local qualifying, but he still would have to play a 36-hole, one-day sectional qualifying to reach the Open. All players would walk, except for Martin.
The Masters Tournament abides by USGA rules, but Masters director of communications Glenn Greenspan said Friday that the tournament won't take a stance unless Martin qualifies for the Masters.
"We are adamant that we think the decision is wrong," Fay said. "But do you dig your heels in and make Casey go through this all again? I think we would have a difficult time explaining to people the difference between the PGA Tour and the USGA. I think we should honor the decision."
One of Martin's lawyers, Martha Walters, was elated to hear Fay's position. However, she wasn't sure how Martin would feel about using a nontraditional golf cart, and didn't want to speak for him.
Greg Jones, president of the Association of Disabled American Golfers, endorses Fay's suggestion. The vehicle isn't a scooter per se, like the three-wheel model used by many disabled people.
Rather, there are single-rider golf carts on the market that are built to navigate fairways, even on wet days. Jones says they are so course-friendly, you can ride them onto the greens. Don't count on the USGA letting Martin go that far for the Open.
"It is a lot less intrusive," Jones said. "It is much easier to get around."