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Casey Martin
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Judge denies golfer's request to use cart

A federal judge insists Ford Olinger and Casey Martin's cases are different.

So are the outcomes.

U.S. District Judge Robert Miller on Thursday declined to back Olinger in his suit against the USGA in which he seeks to ride a cart in qualifying rounds for the U.S. Open. Miller ruled that it would fundamentally alter the nature of the tournament.

Miller also wrote in his decision that his ruling had no bearing on Martin, who successfully sued the PGA last year to use a cart on tour. His case is now under appeal.

"The point of an athletic competition, in contrast, is to decide who, under conditions that are about the same for everyone, can perform an assigned set of tasks better than (not as well as) any other competitor," Miller wrote in his decision, ruling that athletic competition presents a different concern for the Americans with Disabilities Act than the workplace.

Olinger, a golf pro in Warsaw, successfully sued the USGA last year to use a cart in a local qualifier for the Open under the ADA because of a degenerative hip disorder that makes walking 18 holes nearly impossible for him.

But he did not qualify for the sectional, shooting a 12-over-par 83.

Miller agreed with the U.S. Golf Association's contention that walking is a fundamental aspect to competitive golf, and that allowing Olinger to ride a cart would provide him an unfair advantage.

"We're happy in the sense that we've said all along all the players in the competition should be treated under identical rules and that giving one player a cart would create an unfair advantage, and that's exactly what the judge found," said USGA spokesman Marty Parkes.

Miller wrote in a footnote that he did not consider the Martin case in making his ruling because it was in a different circuit court. He also wrote that the two cases differ because Martin's suit sought the right to use a cart on the PGA Tour, not just a single event.

Despite the ruling, Parkes said the USGA will still honour its agreement with Martin to allow him to ride in this year's Open while his suit against the PGA is on appeal. Martin is exempt from the local qualifier this year, but has to play in the Cleveland sectional next month to qualify for the Open championship.

Martin has a circulatory disorder in his right leg that makes it painful for him to walk long distances. His case is on appeal before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and a decision isn't expected for months.

Olinger, who was playing golf when he heard the news, told local radio show Weekday Sports Beat he probably would appeal the decision, though he hadn't discussed it with his lawyers.

"I feel that I'm of the calibre that I can compete for the U.S. Open championship," he said. "I continuously shoot low 70s and high 60s, so it's not like I'm out there shooting 90, 95 and just trying to get in the Open that way."

AP