Court Turns Down USGA Handicap Suit


Tuesday, October 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court refused to revive a lawsuit that accused the U.S. Golf Association, governing body for the amateur sport, of unlawfully trying to dominate the business of calculating individual golfers' handicaps.

The court, without comment Tuesday, turned down Handicomp Inc.'s argument that it should be allowed to pursue its claim that the USGA gave unfair advantages to the company it created to compete with firms such as Handicomp.

Handicomp is a Michigan company that began providing computerized calculations of golfers' handicaps to regional golf associations in 1968.

In 1981, the USGA formed the Golf Handicap & Information Network to begin selling handicap calculations. Handicomp's lawyers contended that the USGA eventually signed exclusive contracts with more than 70 percent of the 94 state and regional golf associations across the country.

Handicomp sued the USGA in 1996, accusing it of unlawfully monopolizing the handicap-computing service.

A federal judge in Trenton, N.J., ruled for the golf association in April 1999. Handicomp did not show that the USGA did anything to control prices or harm competition, the judge said, adding that any financial losses Handicomp suffered were caused by increased competition.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, saying Handicomp did not show competition had been harmed. ``A skilled teen-age hacker'' would have no trouble creating the computer program to produce handicap figures, the appeals court said.

In the appeal acted on Tuesday, Handicomp's lawyers said the lower courts ignored evidence that the USGA ``abuses its position as golf's supposedly neutral governing body in order to gain competitive advantages'' for its handicap-computing company. Among other things, the lawyers said the golf association changed the rules for setting handicaps to ban innovations offered by other firms.

The USGA's lawyers said Handicomp's own trial witnesses said the golf association did nothing to harm Handicomp.

The case is Handicomp v. U.S. Golf Association, 00-231.

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On the Net: For the appeals court ruling: http://www.uscourts.gov/links.html and click on 3rd Circuit.