- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2001

The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the championship PGA Tour may not bar disabled golfer Casey Martin from riding a cart between shots in tournaments, voting 7-2 that walking is not "fundamental" to the game.
Dissenters said such a competitive advantage often is the margin between winners and losers and ridiculed the idea the courts jurisdiction allowed it to adapt rules of a sport until "everybody was finally equal."
"From early on, the essence of the game has been shot-making — using clubs to cause a ball to progress from the teeing ground to a hole some distance away with as few strokes as possible," the majority said in an opinion that analyzed the rules of golf as much as the law.
"I think we ought to take them all out and play golf," golfing legend Jack Nicklaus said of the justices. "I think theyd change their minds. I promise you, its fundamental."
The opinion authored by Justice John Paul Stevens, 81 — an avid golfer and stickler for the rules who tells friends he shoots under 100 as often as goes over that mark — disputed the merits of every argument PGA lawyers raised right down to tracing how players carried an increasing number of clubs.
He was joined in the majority by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day OConnor, Anthony M. Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Dissenting were Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, whose caustic minority view said championship sports are intended to measure the very kind of human differences that the Americans With Disabilities Act seeks to overcome.
"The statute seeks to assure that a disabled persons disability will not deny him equal access to [among other things] competitive sporting events — not that his disability will not deny him an equal chance to win competitive sporting events," Justice Scalia wrote.
"This unequal distribution is precisely what determines the winners and losers," he said, questioning if the Framers of the Constitution who prescribed the high court jurisdiction meant to include "to decide what is golf."
"The court ultimately concludes, and it will henceforth be the law of the land, that walking is not a 'fundamental aspect of golf," the dissent said, saying 18-hole courts, 10-foot high basketball hoops, 90-foot baselines, 100-yard football fields all are arbitrary with only tradition and their sports regulatory body to recommend them.
Justice Stevens detailed review of changing rules over the years said enlarging the hole would be an unfair advantage and suggested much of golf is the luck of the bounce.
But his musings did not reach back as far as Justice Scalia went in recalling a 1457 edict of King James II of Scotland prohibiting golf because it interfered with the practice of archery.
Justice Scalia scoffed at the luck factor.
"I guess that is why those who follow professional golfing consider Jack Nicklaus the luckiest golfer of all time, only to be challenged of late by the phenomenal luck of Tiger Woods," he wrote.
Yesterdays decision accomplishes with a golf cart for Mr. Martin, 28, a mediocre golfer, what the New York Yankees did for Mickey Mantle in 1962 by having him play first base instead of center field, to lengthen the batting career of a superior hitter by avoiding the long walk from the dugout every inning.
Martha Walters, one of Mr. Martins lawyers, said the importance of the decision would be felt by "all people in sports, high school kids, kids at all levels" for whom rules will be adapted, but sports lawyers saw little application for the decision to other major professional sports.
"The court has given Casey, not an advantage but the right to participate," said another of his lawyers, Roy L. Reardon of New York.
In Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem indicated dissatisfaction at being "forced to abandon its long-standing requirement that the rules of competition be applied equally to all competitors."
He said tour officials have "the highest respect and admiration for Casey Martin" and promised to furnish him a golf cart whenever he qualifies for a tournament.
"We have believed from the beginning of this situation, however, that the issues involved go well beyond considerations involving an individual player," Mr. Finchem said.
Hal Sutton, a member of the tours policy board, said many pros have bad backs and might now apply to use a cart. "In Caseys particular case, theres no doubt about his disability," Mr. Sutton said before a practice round for this weeks Memorial Tournament. "This is not about Casey Martin. Its about the possibilities it opens up. The next persons disabilities — it might not be as clear."
Mr. Martin became the first tour player to use a golf cart in championship competition, under federal court order, on Jan. 19, 2000, in the Bob Hope Classic. He shot a 4-under-par 68 in the first round but missed the cut by three strokes.
In December, he fell one stroke short of regaining his PGA Tour card. His best finish this year was a tie for 34th in the Louisiana Open on April 1.
Mr. Martin suffers severe pain in his right leg from a circulatory disorder called Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome. When he was a teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford University, the two roomed together on road trips and Mr. Woods has related instances of severe pain.
The U.S. Golf Association, which won its cart case last year, will not have to decide what to do immediately, since Mr. Martin is not playing at the U.S. Open in Tulsa, Okla., in mid-June.
"Its a concern as to who is going to make the rules and set them, and then how much leeway there is," Marty Parkes, USGA senior director of communication, told the Associated Press.
"If somebody had entered sectional qualifying and then had sprained an ankle and then wanted to use a cart, I dont know what the answer is," Mr. Parkes said, expressing doubts about whether that would be an injury or a disability.
Among those supporting the PGA Tour in friend-of-the-court briefs were the Ladies Professional Golf Association and the mens pro tennis organization, the ATP Tour.

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