- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Casey's comeback starts at the Kemper Open.
Disabled golfer Casey Martin, who rose to national prominence when he successfully sued the PGA Tour for the right to ride a cart in competition, received a warm reception from fellow players when he arrived at the driving range yesterday at TPC at Avenel. Martin, who endured a particularly painful offseason, will make his first PGA Tour start of the season at this week's Kemper Open by virtue of a sponsor's exemption.
"I'm very grateful to be here," said Martin, who has made just four Buy.com starts this season and has yet to make a cut. "This is the only sponsor's exemption I've been offered this year, and I don't know if I'll get another, so this is a very big week for me."
Martin is lucky to be playing at all after battling an infection that nearly claimed his right leg over the winter. Frustrated after losing his PGA Tour card at the end of 2000 and suffering through a miserable season on the Buy.com Tour last season, Martin agreed to try an aggressive new series of treatments on his withered right leg last winter. Instead of reversing the debilitating effects of his Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, the treatments led to a frightening infection.
"I had five surgeries, spent a month in the hospital and then was laid up for six weeks with the thing," said Martin. "It was a rough winter. And then I was recovering, instead of practicing. There are still some nasty scars down there, but the leg feels OK. I'm glad to be back to concentrating on golf."
Martin has enjoyed success at Avenel before, entering the Sunday finale at the 2000 event just four strokes off the pace. But a 90-minute storm delay and 100-degree temperatures conspired to saddle him with a closing 78.
"It seems like there's always crazy weather here, but I should be more ready for it this year. I'm definitely fresher," said Martin, who turns 30 on Sunday. "Hopefully, I'll be in that position again come Sunday."

Kuehne is ready
Without John Daly in this year's field, the Kemper Open's longest hitter should prove to be 1998 U.S. Amateur champion Hank Kuehne. Like Martin, Kuehne will be making his first PGA Tour start of the season via sponsor's exemption. Unlike Martin, however, Kuehne comes to TPC at Avenel with his game in stellar shape. After undergoing two surgeries on his left shoulder over the past two years, Kuehne has returned to the form that made him the top-ranked amateur in the world in 1998, recording four top-five finishes in seven starts on the Canadian Tour this season to lead that circuit's money list.
"Two years ago when I was here I could barely lift my left arm up. That was my last start on the PGA Tour," said the 26-year-old Kuehne, who missed the cut in 2000 after posting rounds of 74 and 72. "I'm finally healthy again after two years of struggling, and I'm putting up the kind of numbers I knew I was capable of before my shoulder went out."
Kuehne, who is scheduled to play a practice round at 8 a.m. today with fellow Texan and friend Fred Couples, has always staggered observers with his numbers off the tee. Yesterday, Kuehne hit just a handful of drives on the practice tee but pounded each of them well over 300 yards, easily clearing the retaining wall at the end of the range.

Duplantis at work again
Canadian looper Steve Duplantis, who made headlines and even inspired a book ("Bud, Sweat and Tees") at the Kemper Open when he steered rookie Rich Beem to victory three years ago, has another anonymous employer at Avenel this week. Duplantis, who has lost several bags over the years because of responsibility issues, will work for 39-year-old journeyman Fred Wadsworth.
"I haven't worked that much this year because I've been busy trying to settle my divorce and sell my house," said Duplantis. "I didn't even have a bag for this week until earlier today. I just showed up this morning in the parking lot, and Fred caught my eye within 30 seconds. It was kind of lucky on my part, but I worked for him earlier this year at New Orleans, so we know each other and get along well."
Wadsworth is more than 15 years removed from his only memorable moment on Tour, a victory at the 1986 Southern Open, but Duplantis is hoping he can rediscover the same magic that helped him turn Beem into the surprise winner of the 1999 season.
"That would be nice, man. I could certainly use the money," said Duplantis. "This morning I went to an ATM, and it would only let me take out $50."

Man with Orangina hair
Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez is a no-contest winner for the Kemper Open's top coif. The former European Ryder Cupper showed up yesterday with his reddish-orange hair resplendently displayed in an 8-inch Afro. Imagine Bill Walton meets Oscar Gamble.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide