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Casey Martin
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Casey Martin on verge of PGA Tour
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Judge denies golfer's request to use cart
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Court ruling may affect Casey Martin

The U.S. Golf Association promised Casey Martin he could use a cart in qualifying for the U.S. Open while his suit against the PGA was tied up in an appeals court.

Now there's a chance the USGA could change its mind.

USGA attorney Lee Abrams speculated Monday that if the association wins a lawsuit by an Indiana golf professional seeking the use of a cart in qualifying for the U.S. Open, there's a chance it will re-evaluate its agreement with Martin.

"It's an issue that remains to be decided as this case comes out," Abrams said, stressing the USGA has given no formal consideration to Martin's status pending the outcome of Ford Olinger's suit.

Olinger, a golf pro in Warsaw, Ind., successfully sued the USGA last year for a temporary injunction allowing him to ride in the local qualifier for the Open. He's now seeking to make that exemption permanent. The second day of the trial was scheduled for today, with lawyers on both sides expecting to wrap up testimony.

Martin, who has a circulatory disorder in his right leg that makes it painful for him to walk long distances, won the right last year to ride on tour under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But his case is on appeal before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments were heard earlier this month, and a decision isn't expected for months.

Roy Reardon, Martin's attorney handling the appeal, said he'd be surprised if the association changed its mind while the PGA suit is still pending.

"There are 50 million disabled people in America, and I can't believe the U.S. Golf Association would want to offend 50 million people with that decision," he said.

Olinger, who has a degenerative hip disorder that makes walking 18 holes nearly impossible, did not qualify for the sectional last year, shooting a 12-over-par 83 in the local qualifier.

The USGA argues that allowing any contestant to ride during competition equals an unfair advantage over walking contestants by reducing fatigue. It has filed a counterclaim seeking a declaration that providing a cart is not a public accommodation under the ADA.

Judge Robert Miller said he will issue a ruling by Monday, the date of the local qualifier in South Bend for the U.S. Open.

During testimony in federal court Monday, USGA lawyers tried to paint Olinger's request as an unfair advantage. The golfer's lawyers tried to dismiss the notion that walking is a fundamental aspect to the game and that it has a significant impact on competitors.

At one point, USGA attorney Steve Jackson asked Olinger whether accommodations should be made for golfers who suffer injuries during the course of a tournament, such as a sprained ankle or wrist.

"Does that give you an advantage to ride a cart that lessens your pain?" Jackson asked Olinger.

"No, sir. I start with pain every time," he answered.

USGA attorneys called Dr. James Rippe, who studies the physical impacts of walking, to testify about a study he compiled on the impact walking has on golfers. Rippe said his review of various studies showed that walking a 4½-hour round of golf for the average American male weighing 177 pounds is equivalent to running for two hours at a pace of 11 minutes per mile.

He also said the studies show fatigue greatly impacts motor skills and judgment. Those effects are cumulative over the course of a tournament, a huge factor in tournaments where the winning margin is often just a few strokes.

"One-third of one percent of shots in a golf tournament might be the difference between winning and losing," Rippe said. "The individual riding in a cart is afforded a substantial and unfair advantage."

Under cross-examination, Olinger's attorney, John Hamilton, said Rippe's study did not compare a healthy, average golfer walking a round with Olinger, who has bilateral avascular necrosis. He also suggested the physical disability, coupled with the mental stress of playing in competition, would fatigue Olinger just as much as it would a healthy golfer walking a round.