AUSTIN, Texas -- A former teaching pro who conducts golf clinics for the disabled filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the United States Golf Association for the right to use a cart during U.S. Senior Open qualifying.
JaRo Jones, 53, of Baytown, who has a disease that causes his leg and shoulder muscles to atrophy, says the USGA has denied his request for a cart during Senior Open qualifying for the past three years.
Jones, who filed his lawsuit in Austin, says denying him use of a cart violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"I really would like to try to qualify. Two years ago, there's no doubt in my mind I would have qualified," Jones said Monday from Lake Geneva, Wis., where he was conducting a clinic. "I went ahead and walked three holes in 1998 before I was forced to quit."
USGA spokesman Marty Parkes said the organization stands by its position.
"We've always maintained that walking should be part of the competition," Parkes said.
Qualifying for this year's U.S. Senior Open starts in June and federal appeals court have recently issued conflicting rulings case similar to Jones'.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court in Chicago in March ruled against a disabled club pro from Indiana. The court said a cart would change the nature of competition and that such rules were best left to the governing body.
Meanwhile, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court in San Francisco upheld a lower court ruling that allows Casey Martin to ride a cart on the PGA Tour.
Jones had polio when he was 4 and was diagnosed with post polio syndrome in 1993. The condition forced him out of his job as the club pro at Newport Country Club in Crosby, Texas, three years later, he said.
"When they talk about the golf cart giving me an unfair advantage, it's just not true," Jones said. "The pain that I live with every day, all a cart does is allow me to compete. It doesn't give me any kind of advantage."
The Senior PGA Tour allows players to use carts during tournaments although many choose not to.
The USGA has said it will allow Martin to use a cart for U.S. Open qualifying because the federal appeals court had ruled in his favor.
"We will provide a cart to Casey Martin. He will be the only player given that kind of accommodation," Parkes said.
Jones said he should get the same treatment as Martin.
"I have nothing against Casey," Jones said. "But I don't understand how they can deny me the use of golf cart when they turned around and said he could use one."
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