I didn’t think it was possible to top the Dennis Miller story, but Casey Martin did. Another example of why U.S. Open qualifying is awesome: The 40-year-old golf coach for the University of Oregon made a five-footer for par to earn medalist honors, taking him back to The Olympic Club. Had he missed, he would have been in a three-for-two playoff (three players for the two available spots).
I remember hearing Martin was playing in the sectional qualifying and noting only two guys would advance. I’ll be honest — I thought he had no chance. ZERO. Especially since he hadn’t exactly been working on his game 24/7. Well, I should have known better.
Martin, a Stanford teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford, has Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, a rare circulatory disorder that causes severe pain and makes it virtually impossible for him to walk 18 holes. He sued the PGA Tour and won the right to use a cart in 1998, and the U.S. Open allowed him to use it at Olympic in 1998 when he qualified for the U.S. Open. He tied for 23rd.
Martin earned his way onto the PGA Tour in 1999 and eventually won his lawsuit to ride a cart. He failed to keep his PGA Tour card after one year, and eventually became the golf coach at Oregon. But with the U.S. Open returning to Olympic, and a qualifying site so close to home, he decided to give it a try. Martin had not played golf in nine days because of the NCAA Championships at Riviera, where the Ducks reached the semifinals on the weekend.
Uh-oh, flight is boarding. I’ll update during my 4-hour layover.
I was only 15, but I recall watching coverage of the lawsuit and Martin riding in a cart. I remember his inspiring story at the U.S. Open and fight against the Tour. I’ve always been a softy at heart and back then it was even softer. I was so young, but I vaguely remember Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus testifying against Martin. I can still conjure up the image of Martin in the one-person motorized scooter on the news — that says a lot since my memory isn’t the same as my 15-year-old self (go figure, I know).
I never thought 14 years later we’d get the chance to see a Casey Martin ’98 Open redux.
I’m curious how people feel about the lawsuit and the cart. I pulled up Rick Reilly’s column from February of that year, scolding Palmer, Nicklaus and Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, which is — believe it or not — worth a read (though there are holes in his argument). Someone will revisit the silly “is golf a sport?” debate (answer: there isn’t one) and whether it’s against the “integrity of the game.” Keep in mind players use carts on the senior tour and the mini-tours, not to mention the technological advancements in equipment.
One thing hasn’t changed: Martin is still proving the impossible doesn’t exist.
(AP Photo/The Register-Guard, Kevin Clark)