Thursday, June 14, 2012

Easy Rider

The US Open tees off today at the Olympic Club in San Francisco this morning.  Among those competing in "Golf's Toughest Test" this year is Casey Martin.  If the name sounds vaguely familiar to non-golf fans, Martin is the player that successfully sued the United States Golf Association (and later the PGA TOUR) under the Americans With Disabilities Act to ride in a golf cart during competitive rounds the last time the Open was held at Olympic.  Martin was born with a congenital leg condition that make walking any distance extremely painful--but still allows him to swing a golf club at a very high level.

Many of the big names in golf came out against Martin in his original quest to use the cart.  Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer testified in support of the sport's governing bodies, telling the court that allowing Martin to ride would "threaten the integrity of the game".  The main concern at the time was that if Casey was allowed to ride, then any touring pro with a stiff back or a sore knee would also want a cart.  Soon you would have a quarter of the field riding--while the rest walked and the competitive balance of the sport would be ruined.

As it has turned out Casey Martin is still the ONLY player to ever request a cart for competitive play.  That despite numerous players suffering career threatening and career-ending back and leg injuries since 1999.  If there was ever a player that should have requested a cart, it's Tiger Woods during the 2008 US Open when he played 90 holes ON A BROKEN LEG--and won the tournament!!

I still believe that Casey Martin should not be allowed to ride.  I think that walking is an integral part of the game--and that not having to put in the five or six miles up and down the steep hills of Olympic Club, Martin is getting an unfair advantage over the rest of the field.  (I still have to grit my teeth when I see guys I'm playing against in weekend tournaments riding--and I hate that the Wisconsin Golf Association requires us to ride in nearly all of the tournaments they put on.  If you can't walk--you can't play)  But I have also come to accept that the court decision is never going to change--and that it's long-lasting impact on the sport has minimal at best.

If anything, the Casey Martin case has shown us that we need to be a little less reactionary sometimes--and let things play out before we start talking about how things have been "ruined" by a little change.

No comments:

Post a Comment