Originally created 07/10/01

USGA denies disabled caddie's cart request



SAN ANTONIO -- The Supreme Court ruling that lets Casey Martin ride a golf cart apparently doesn't extend to disabled caddies.

The U.S. Golf Association denied a request to allow cerebral palsy sufferer Lee Penterman to use a cart Monday while caddying for a friend in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.

Penterman, who walks with a limp and has a gnarled right hand because of the disease, was on the bag anyway as his pal Ben Flam shot an even-par 71 in the first of two days of stroke play in the six-day event.

"I still think the ruling was unjust," Flam said. "He has a disability. It's like not giving a wheelchair to someone to get up a ramp."

USGA officials were surprised that the first request to use a cart in a national championship since the Martin ruling came from a caddie.

"The Martin case was about competitors and people whose livelihoods are involved. Clearly, that isn't the case," USGA spokesman Marty Parkes said.

"If he was a player, it would have been different. At our championships, we don't allow the use of a cart for caddies or spectators. We were concerned about the precedent this might set. If we provide a cart to one person (caddie), it's conceivable there could be a lot of carts out there."

The 38-year-old Penterman smiled through his fatigue after finishing the round shortly before noon. An early tee time kept the duo from the worst heat of the day as they covered the 7,005-yard Pecan Valley Golf Club.

"You missed too many fairways," Penterman jokingly told Flam as they walked off the final green.

Penterman plans to caddie again Tuesday. If Flam is in the top 64 after that round, he'll advance to match play beginning Wednesday. The 36-hole final is Saturday.

Flam, a 20-year-old sophomore at Arizona State, seemed more upset about the USGA ruling than did Penterman, a Phoenix resident who remained upbeat.

"It was fun today. It was a lot of hard work," said Penterman, whose entire right side is atrophied. "We're going to come out tomorrow and try to do better."

The USGA allowed Penterman to ride a cart during practice rounds Saturday and Sunday, then told him late Sunday that he couldn't use it during the tournament.

Penterman said he thought the Martin ruling paved the way for him, too. He argued as much to the USGA, saying that if the Supreme Court said Martin did not have an advantage using a cart, than he didn't either.

"A caddie is a piece of the player's equipment," Penterman told the San Antonio Express-News. "Why can't a piece of equipment ride in a cart? It doesn't provide the player with an advantage."

Penterman considered seeking a court injunction, but decided against it - for this week. Flam says that in his eventual pro career he'd like to have Penterman on his bag, which could force another legal battle.

On May 29, Martin won a 3 1/2 -year fight for the right to ride in PGA Tour events. He needs motorized help to get around the course because he suffers from Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome, a circulatory disorder in his right leg that makes walking painful.

Cerebral palsy is a condition in which a brain injury affects muscle control, including speech and movement.