June 12th, 2012
01:16 PM ET

Disabled golfer enjoying second U.S. Open

As he gets ready for the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco this week, Casey Martin feels a lot like it's 1998 again.

That's the last time Martin played in the event, the last time it was held at this venue.

And like last time, he'll be the only one of the 156 players using a cart, needed because of a birth defect in his right leg that makes it hard to get around 18 holes. It's an exception to the rules he was granted under the Americans With Disabilities Act, but only after a legal battle with the PGA.

"I don't like to be the center of controversy, and it kind of followed me for a long time there," he said of his previous U.S. Open appearance and his subsequent time on the PGA Tour.

This year, there doesn't seem to be any controversy over the cart, but Martin said the pain in the leg, damaged by a congenital circulatory disorder known as Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, remains and he's used that to his advantage.

"It helps me sometimes to concentrate because I realize it's only one thing I can do and just try to block out my leg," he said in an interview with CNN Sports.

That Martin should be playing a second U.S. Open at all is quite unexpected.

Just finishing his sixth season as the head golf coach at the University of Oregon, he no longer plays competitively.

But as this year's Open was back at Olympic, he thought he'd take a chance and try to qualify. He made it despite practicing less than a 10-year-old on a putt-putt course.

"I hit about 20 minutes of golf balls that week leading up to it," he said of the qualifier last week at the Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Oregon. He shot back-to-back 69s on June 4 to earn his spot at Olympic.

"It's kind of a random occurrence for me to get in. But I'm grateful I went through the qualifier, grateful I got hot at the right time and I get an experience like this as reward," Martin said.

But the past week has been a grind, he told a news conference Monday.

"It has been overwhelming really. ... Last week it was a very challenging week for me. Just a lot of demands on my time; I'm just not built for this. It's like I coach and I don't have an agent, and I just kind of live my life. Then all of a sudden it was just kind of being bombarded. There was a lot of calls I couldn't respond to," Martin said.

Martin, who finished 23rd in the 1998 Open, said he hopes he can respond in a similar fashion when he tees off Thursday.

"I don't know what my goal should be, but I am going to give it great effort," he said. "I'm going to enjoy every bit of it."

Martin to play U.S. Open 14 years after legal battles - Golf.com

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soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. ArizonaYankee

    More liberal BS. Martin should go and play in a special tournament for the handicapped. He is the opposite of what he claims. He is looking for attention and controversy...What a loser.....

    June 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • BobTx1

      I have to agree with you.. totally..

      June 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • putternot

      you must have had an awful childhood to be such a jerk.....

      June 12, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Arizona should be put into a special country for handicapped states

      June 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bryant

      Totally agree

      June 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Dr.Dee

    Yeah what a loser.A Stanford graduate and Pro Golfer. Having lived with a lifelong disability, It's hard to beleive this is an issue. He just wants a chance. What's the problem? Afraid some lowly disabled guy will beat you?

    June 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mik

      Dr.Dee, setting your snarkiness aside, the problem is that riding makes a difference. I've golfed hundreds of times, both with a cart and without. After 18 walking, I'm generally ready to be done. Riding, I'm often surprised I am done. Walking is part o the game. When they let everyone ride, then I will not object one little bit.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yakobi

      Why should he get an advantage over the other golfers? And that's what this is. It's not putting him on an even playing level with everyone else. It's akin to letting him hit from the white tees. Would that be fair if everyone else had to hit from the black tees? Would you think it fair to take a few strokes off his total because of his handicap?

      Yes, they should make every accommodation for him to be able to play golf...just not in a tournament that requires everyone ELSE walk the course.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    If riding in a cart provides so much of an advantage, why are caddies allowed to carry the clubs for the golfer? By using caddies, this is permitting out-of-shape golfers to participate - where's the outrage??

    June 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Because being rich lazy snobs is part of golf, thats why caddies are necessary.

      June 12, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bruce

    Wow. The dude qualified. He's not going to win. Let him play. He'll go back to coaching again and all will be "fair" in your world. I saw Casey play in person back in the day. I can tell you, cart or no cart, the guy struggles and is wiped out at the end of his round. Imagine 4 days, back to back of that grind. Then, a season of the same. It was brutal for him. Unless you've walked in his shoes, cut the guy a break.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dr.Dee

    Mik, I respestfully disagree. Walking isn't part of the game until some guy actually needs a cart to participate. I really don't think it gives him any advantage. Being disabled myself I know it's not just walking that's challenging but the entire game itself. He probably puts out twice has much energy has any of his peers.

    June 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mik

      Don't start with the disabled thing with me. I have nerve damage in my left leg that prevents the lifting of my foot. I have to wear a device just so I don't trip over the limp appendage. I can still golf, and I can still walk, and I can ride. Riding makes it easier, even on those who don't have issues. Riding would give anyone an advantage. And it isn't just Mr Martin we're talking about, where does this "bend the rules for me" end. If you're good enough and can go, then do, but don't ask the game to change to fit you.

      June 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Bryant

    Riding 18 holes ABSOLUTELY gives you an advantage over walking. Clearly some of you people have never walked 18 holes in the dead of summer. My son was born with asthma... does he get a cart? It's tough for him to walk 18 holes too.

    @Steve... did you even think before you posted? you completely missed the point.... IT HAS TO BE EVEN. The reason there is no outrage for having a caddie is because every player gets one. Duh...... but in this case, not every player gets a cart.

    June 12, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  7. WachetAuf

    Mr. Martin will gain no advantage over today's professional golfers. It may have been an advantage against some in the good old days when some professional golfers walked around the course, smoking their cigarettes with their pot bellies hanging down below their belts. Their games must have been impaired by making them walk. I cannot imagine that the walking adds any difficulty to the games of today's professional golfers. They are young and very athletic. They have a caddy to carry their bags. Even I, at age 67, am not impaired by the walking. What is tough about walking a couple of miles, more or less over a period of three hours? The skill is in the swing, the control of the hands, the shoulders, the legs, the breathing, the eyes, the feel of the clubs. The walking actually may even be helpful in relaxing the muscles, keep the blood flowing, the breathing steady, the shoulders relaxed.

    June 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dr.Dee

      Thank you.. well said

      June 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Donny

    I agree, all things equal riding is easier than walking. But considering the guy has a disability which makes it painful and difficult for him to walk, it kind of evens out don't you think?

    June 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jeannie

    At some point he may lose his leg to the disease he has – at which point, he'll never play golf again. Those of you who think he has an advantage with a cart are foolish. He is, and will always be, at a tremendous disadvantage to the able-bodied players on the course. The fact that he has continued to play this sport – despite the obvious pain he is in at all times – is commendable, and 'reasonable accommodation' should be made so that he may play as long as he can.


    June 12, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
  10. RockyName*

    Give the guy a shot. He shot back to back 69's. Anyone that can do that regadless of the cart deserves a chance. Anyone else out there ever done that and can say it was because of the cart?

    June 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Terry

    The game of golf is about hitting the BALL long distances, not WALKING long distances...cut the guy a break and wish him well, for heaven's sake!!

    June 12, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Eileen

    Casey Martin's birth defect is very rare, but not so rare that our family escaped it. My daughter was born with the same birth defect and made the difficult decision to amputate her leg at the age of 19. She lived with pain everyday and walked with a very pronounced limp due to a deformed foot and bowed leg. The stares and unkind remarks directed at her during her growing up years were hard to bear. But she, like Casey Martin, handled her situation with grace! Unless you REALLY understand what my daughter and Casey Martin have had to deal with in regard to this birth defect, you cannot comprehend that the legal battle he won still DID NOT give him an advantage in this game!

    June 12, 2012 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. A Guy

    All the other goflers get their gear carried for them. Walking ~2 miles has NOTHING to do with the game of golf. If walking that distance affects your game (minues the gear) you are either disabled, old, or rediculously out of shape. Its not like he's using special clubs changing any rules that matter. Just google the disease. Any "advantage" he gains by riding in a cart still leaves him much more fatigued than the rest of the golfers. Many of these posters would probably raise heII if a baseball player carried an injuried oppenent across home after hitting a home run (which has happened).

    June 13, 2012 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. riamb60

    You go Casey, I am cheering for you !!

    June 13, 2012 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |