Golf cart ruling makes sense

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently that Casey Martin should be allowed to ride a cart on the PGA Tour, many tour pros reacted by saying this would affect the nature of the game. Martin would have an advantage on a hot day, they said or implied. Other golfers would come forth to sue the PGA Tour because they feel their disability-whatever it might be-puts them at a disadvantage.PGA Tour players should open their eyes and read the decision the Supreme Court handed down by a 7-2 margin in favour of Martin. The most important section was that Martin’s severe circulatory problem in his right leg causes him more fatigue even while riding a cart than players, not handicapped themselves, feel while walking a course.

Why aren’t players taking note of this? Why won’t they see that the Supreme Court’s decision is narrowly focused on Martin? At least PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, who to his credit was the first to inform Martin of the Court’s ruling, did note this element. He didn’t seem worried that players would be suing the PGA Tour, although no doubt some might. But they had better have a disability comparable to Martin’s.

Mental game&l;b />It’s often said golf is a mental game much more than a physical one. That’s both its charm and its difficulty. We have to overcome our mental gremlins, to cite a term Greg Norman often uses. But Martin also has to overcome his very real physical problems. He can’t walk a course. But he can hit the golf ball beautifully.

Dave Anderson of the New York Times, one of the most thoughtful columnists on sport, said in a piece following the Court’s ruling that the cart doesn’t hit the ball, the player does. Martin hits it well enough to play the PGA Tour. Now he has the opportunity to do so without feeling the weight of the organization on him, not to mention the long wait he’s had while his case went through the Supreme Court.

PGA as workplace
Martin is an exceptional young man, and the Supreme Court also does its homework. In this case it’s decided that golf is more about hitting the ball than it is about walking-much more. Its ruling also indicates that it’s considering the PGA Tour as a workplace, and so the implications are indeed wider than golf.

In fact I’d say that not much will happen in golf because of the ruling. But we might also be more aware now that disabled people can do more than we give them credit for, and that it’s reasonable to make accommodations for them when appropriate.

Martin’s legacy
It’s hard to say how this will all affect Martin’s career. He’s been struggling this year on the BUY.Com Tour, but perhaps will feel freed now to play the kind of golf of which he’s capable. It’s also hard to say how much time he has left in competitive golf, because his condition is degenerative.

Meanwhile, Martin will be known probably forever as the golfer who took the PGA Tour all the way to the Supreme Court, and won. It would be wonderful if he were to play great golf and win tournaments, so that he would be known more for his golf than his disability and the case that went to the Supreme Court.

But if he does go on to succeed on the course as well as in the courts, at the highest levels, then you can bet that some players will say it’s because he had the advantage of a cart. Martin said that he’d rather walk any day, and that he can guarantee that no golfer would choose to ride a cart and have his disability rather than walk without it.

Watch Martin play golf. Then make up your own mind as to whether he’s at an advantage over his fellow golfers because he rides. The Supreme Court has made up its mind in his favour. I’ll wager you will also.