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Golf Today 8th March
Golf Notes March 8
Time to let the cart issue drop ?
Nicklaus to be awarded Distinguished Service Award
Another cart case ruled in favour of USGA
European Open prize fund increased

Time to let the cart issue drop ?

Some words of advice for the PGA Tour: Forget another round of appeals and let the kid ride in peace.

Allow the swelling to subside from the public relations pounding you already have absorbed. Save your strength. Because the next time someone takes you to court over the right to use a cart, you must climb back into the ring.

Casey Martin was all but ensured a smooth ride for the remainder of his rookie season when a federal appeals court in San Francisco on Monday upheld a lower court ruling that gave him the right to use a cart in the first place.

The appeals process took nearly two years, during which Martin became much more than a sympathetic figure. He proved he could flat out play, which explains what he is doing on the PGA Tour.

There's no telling how long another appeal will take, or even if the U.S. Supreme Court would accept it. There's no telling how much longer the rare circulatory disease in Martin's right leg will enable him to play, or even walk.

More than one doctor has said amputation is a possibility.

If the cart gives Martin an unfair advantage -- and no one will ever know -- the results don't seem to bear that out. The only two events in which he has missed the cut were the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, both played on multiple courses with six-hour rounds because of amateur partners.

His best finish is a tie for 17th in Tucson, the same week the top 64 players in the world were at La Costa for the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship. He is 124th on the money list with $51,015, chump change compared to money lawyers are making.

Suddenly, he is in the spotlight again during the Honda Classic. But the more interesting development will unfold next week.

Martin received an invitation to play in the Bay Hill Invitational from the host -- Arnold Palmer, an outspoken critic of carts on the PGA Tour who testified against him at trial.

Behind closed doors the day before the tournament, commissioner Tim Finchem will preside over a regularly scheduled Policy Board meeting to discuss the next step in "Martin vs. PGA Tour."

Among the issues to consider: Whether it's worth the mounting legal fees to continue, and whether another round in court would cause more harm than good.

Sadly, carts have taken over the game on a recreational level, and the tour shares some of that blame. The majority, if not all, of the courses in its vast TPC network do not allow walking because of the enormous revenue carts bring in.

Nevertheless, walking remains a critical component at the highest form of competition. The tour has every right to protect it. It has a duty to protect it.

The most damaging impact of Martin's lawsuit is that judges, some of whom might not know the difference between a birdie and a bogey, can determine whether competition is fundamentally altered without walking.

Consider two opinions from two courts the past two days, both on lawsuits in which a player has sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act for the right to ride.

A federal judge in Oregon said Martin should get a cart, and a three-member panel in San Francisco on Monday upheld that verdict.

Then there's Ford Olinger. The club pro from Indiana, who suffers from a degenerative hip, sued the USGA to use a cart in U.S. Open qualifying. Olinger lost his case.

Today, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld the lower court.

"We believe his use of a cart during the tournament would fundamentally alter the nature of the competition," the 7th Circuit opinion said.

Olinger used a cart in qualifying for the '98 U.S. Open, shot an 83 and didn't advance.

Martin used a cart and not only qualified for the U.S. Open, but finished higher (tie for 23rd) than two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els and British Open champion Justin Leonard.

Did their ability affect the outcome of their lawsuit?

Count on this: The tour will face more challenges over the right to ride. It will win some and lose some. And one of these days, the tour will have to decide whether to take its case to the Supreme Court.

Now is not the time.

Even though Martin wasn't blessed with two good legs, he was blessed with enough heart -- not to mention sheer talent -- to qualify for the PGA Tour, the most elite roster of any sport.

He is a rare breed. Some might say, as Jack Nicklaus did, that he is one in a million.

Save the battle for another day. There might not be another player with a physical disability to makes it as far as Martin has.

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