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Casey Martin
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Disabled golfer fails in quest for US Open entry

Ford Olinger stood on the 18th tee, swung his driver one last time and said what had been painfully obvious for 17 holes: "God, that hurt."

The disabled golf pro struggled through the U.S. Open local qualifier at the South Bend Country Club on Monday, shooting a 17-over-par 88 less than a week after a federal judge refused to force the U.S. Golf Association to allow Olinger to ride.

Olinger, who has a degenerative hip disorder, limped badly and often rested on his bad side between shots in blustery conditions that featured intermittent rain, wind gusts up to 25 mph and temperatures in the upper 40s.

"I'm not making excuses. I shot an 88, period," said Olinger, who had to take painkillers several times during his round. "Everyone has to deal with pain. Some just have to deal with more pain than others."

In obvious pain all day, Olinger shot 44 on each nine and began to fade toward the end of his round. He parred two holes on the front nine before starting the back with consecutive pars. After two bogeys sandwiched around a double bogey, he parred Nos. 15 and 16 before he came to the 211-yard par-3 17th. There, he put two balls in the water before holing out with an 8 and limping off to the 18th tee. He parred the last hole, a par 5.

Trailed by reporters and camera crews, Olinger said he refused to quit during his round.

"I came here to play in the U.S. Open. I didn't come here to wimp out and go home," said Olinger, of Warsaw. "I had a feeling when I got here unless I was dead or they were dragging me, I was going to finish the course."

Olinger shot an 83 last year on the same course after a federal judge granted him a temporary restraining order, forcing the U.S. Golf Association to allow him to ride in the local qualifier. He went back to court last week, seeking a permanent injunction granting him the accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. But U.S. District Judge Robert Miller ruled that allowing him to use a cart would fundamentally alter the tournament and denied his request.

He vowed to be back next year at the local qualifier -- with or without a cart -- and whether or not he decides to appeal Miller's ruling.

"I set out a goal to participate in the U.S. Open, no matter what, and I did," he said.

Ryan Chalfant, who qualified for sectional play last year and played with Olinger on Monday, said he couldn't understand why the USGA would deny Olinger a cart, especially after watching him struggle down each fairway in pain.

"Really, I don't see it's that much of an advantage for him," said Chalfant, who graduated from Purdue and now plays on several mini tours. "For him to go out and walk in this wind was eight times harder for him that it was for me."

Medalist Josh Habig shot a 68, one of only three rounds below par, and was one of five players from the South Bend local qualifier to advance to sectional play. The junior at Northwestern said the USGA and PGA should be allowed to set the rules of competition and deny the use of a cart for any competitor. But he also said he'd want a cart, too, if he had to deal with Olinger's pain.

"The fact that it's golf and the nature of the game, it makes sense to give the guy a chance," he said.

AP