Casey Martin. If you’ve never heard of him he’s the former PGA TOUR player that was best known for needing to ride a golf cart. He fought with the PGA TOUR and eventually took his fight before the United States Supreme Court. Martin sued the PGA TOUR for the right to use a golf cart during competition under the Americans With Disabilities Act. He would ride a cart for one season in 2001 on the PGA Tour. There was also another situation, this time with the USGA during a U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier. Currently, he is the coach of the University of Oregon Ducks Men’s Golf Team.
The reason for the battles listed above was ultimately caused by a birth defect that Martin was born with. Casey Martin was born with Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome, a vascular condition that causes vein malformations, the overgrowth of bones and soft tissue, glaucoma, chronic pain resulting from complications of infections, and vein problems. In 2019, while going outside to retrieve garbage bins at night, with roadwork going on outside of his house, one unfortunate step broke his leg.
Ever since, Martin has been going through treatments in an attempt to save his right leg. For golfers, that would be the trail leg for a right-handed golfer. These treatments included injections, injections that are most commonly used on Osteoporosis patients. Osteoporosis is a condition that causes the body to become weak and brittle. Someone with this condition could have a trip and fall, bend over, or even cough which could cause a fracture of the bones. Typically, Osteoporosis causes fractures in the hip, wrist, or spine.
Unfortunately, the injections failed to work and after seeing the broken tibia (the tibia is part of the lower leg) regress, the decision was made to amputate his right leg. So, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota on October 15th, surgeons amputated his leg. According to research that I’ve done, the prognosis is good. After the site heals he may be able to wear a prosthetic leg. As someone who is somewhat familiar with amputations, to get to that point will take a lot of rehab and physical therapy.
My thoughts are with Casey Martin and I hope that he heals and recovers soon. Hopefully, the golf community can do what they did after Tiger Woods’ car accident and show an outpouring of support for Martin and his family.
With well-wishes out of the way it just makes me think about the golf community at large. Upon reflection, following the infamous car accident that Tiger Woods had earlier this year, the outpouring of support shown was special. It was great to see. I’m very hopeful that the golf community, once again, will come together again over social media to do the same for Casey. Sure, he hasn’t done nearly what Tiger has, but, he’s put the spotlight on golf in a different way. He was a voice for others like him. For people like me. He stood up to the PGA TOUR and fought.
Denying him an opportunity to have a career over a stupid rule about carts, was wrong. Perhaps this is a bad take on my part, and I can live with that. I think that the rule is/was tone-deaf in the first place. For those that aided the PGA TOUR against Casey (Jack Nicklaus was said to have “reluctantly testified” against the use of carts) now knowing what happened to Casey Martin in the end, I hope that you feel good. May you never have to go through anything like that where your dream or career is taken away. To that end I have to ask. Does riding a cart offer that much of an advantage? Especially to somebody that has a bona fide, documented health problem where it effects the ability to walk a golf course?
Based on my personal experiences between Peripheral Artery Disease, Peripheral Diabetic Neuropathy, and a constant stream of infections and Diabetic Foot Ulcers, I can relate in many ways to what Casey Martin has gone through. In 2014, I faced an amputation of the same limb. The pain is often unbearable from these health issues. There’s seemingly no relief from it, as it’s always just sort of there. Playing golf does get your mind off of it just a little bit. So, it’s good as far as mental health goes.
Riding in a golf cart to be able to play golf is often the only way that I can play. Unless I’m walking a short course or nine holes. I hate riding and I would love to be able to walk a championship course. Personally speaking, I score better when I walk. I think that riding a cart is actually detrimental other than from a fatigue standpoint. Which was the argument the PGA TOUR used during their battle. Looking at the brief of PGA TOUR INC v. Casey Martin, the PGA TOUR alleged that the use of the cart would “fundamentally alter the nature” of the tournaments. I will always contend that you don’t “feel” the golf course when you ride and not to mention that there’s an unconscious feeling of being rushed.
A few years back when I did Local Qualifying for the U.S. Open I thought about applying to the USGA for a special cart exemption. I never did apply and the reason was because of the fight that Casey Martin had. If he had to fight that hard, then what were the odds of them saying yes? Also, I didn’t want to have the stigma at the qualifier as being “the guy with the cart”. I just figured that the USGA would have declined the request. I should have applied though. My cardiac issues struck as I had a pretty serious angina episode on the 8th hole and it continued on and off until well after the round.
I sure hope that Keith is right. That hindsight will allow golf’s governing bodies to see and start to view things differently. He’s absolutely correct in his assessment of the situation. I’m so glad that the PGA TOUR Champions (Champions Tour) made it possible for their player’s to ride in events on that circuit. I can’t believe that it’s been 15 years since that decision was made.
It’s just too bad that an unwillingness to change and evolve and truly see something for what it truly was happened in the first place. All of it directly pointing in the direction of the governing bodies. As golfer’s, fans, industry professionals we’ve all seen the game get in its own way. It’s a game that, historically has been resistant to change. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say and if faced with another situation like that of Casey Martin, it would be handled much differently. And it will be, with many thanks to Casey Martin’s fight. Since diversity, accessibility, and inclusion is all of the rage these days, hopefully leadership at the top will push for change.
If there’s a silver lining to the loss of Casey Martin’s playing career, it’s that it resulted in him acting as a recruiter, mentor and a coach to many young men. He’s also developed the Oregon Ducks into a national golf power. PGA TOUR winners Aaron Wise and Wyndham Clark played under Coach Martin.
My thoughts are with Casey and his family. I sincerely hope the healing and recovery go as well as it could. Every day will get better. Hang in there Coach!
Until The Next Tee!!