PGA Wants Review of Martin Case

Monday, July 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

With opposite opinions from two federal appeals courts on whether walking is an integral part of championship golf, the PGA Tour said Monday it would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision that allows Casey Martin to ride in a cart.

The tour said it would file its motion Wednesday, the deadline imposed by the Supreme Court. The court probably will not decide until late October whether to take up the case.

``This case is not about Casey Martin, but rather the PGA Tour's ability to set and implement the rules of its competition,'' the tour said in a statement.

Spokesman Bob Combs said there would be no further comment.

Martin, who has a rare circulatory disease in his right leg, is playing the Western Open outside Chicago this week and could not immediately be reach for comment.

His father said he was disappointed but not surprised by the tour's decision.

``I never expected differently,'' King Martin said. ''(Commissioner) Tim Finchem told me from Day One that he would accommodate Casey all the way through the appeals process, which is a nice way of saying they're going all the way through with this.''

Martin successfully sued the PGA Tour in 1998 for a right to ride a cart, and became the first player to ride in the U.S. Open and on the PGA Tour. He earned his tour card in October by finishing in the top 15 on the Nike Tour.

In March, the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco unanimously upheld the Oregon court's decision.

One day later, the 7th Circuit Court in Chicago upheld a lower court ruling that denied a cart to Indiana club pro Ford Olinger.

Olinger had sued the USGA for a cart in U.S. Open qualifying because of a degenerative hip disease. He was allowed a walker — called a Lunar Swedish Rollator — to relieve pressure on his back, but shot a 90 in the first stage of qualifying in May and failed to advance.

Both lawsuits were based on the Americans with Disabilities Act. The tour said it expects Olinger to ask the Supreme Court to review his case, too.

``We believe the prospects of the Supreme Court agreeing to clarify the law on this issue are increased if requests to review both the Olinger and Martin decisions are before the court,'' the tour said.

Meanwhile, a federal court in Austin, Texas, last month ruled against the USGA and ordered that JaRo Jones, a 53-year-old club pro who has post-polio syndrome and neuromuscular atrophy, be allowed a cart in U.S. Senior Open qualifying.

He had an 84 and failed to qualify.

As it relates to the Martin case, the tour said a standard imposed by the 9th circuit was impossible to administer and not required under the ADA. The court said the tour should determine the difference in fatigue between disabled players who ride and able-bodied players who walk.

Martin, who played at Stanford with Tiger Woods and Notah Begay, has struggled in his rookie season on tour. He has made the cut in only eight of 15 tournaments, and his only finish in the top 30 was a tie for 17th in the Tucson Open, the same week the top players were competing in the Match Play Championship.

He is 161st on the money list, and must finish the year in the 125 to keep his card — or the top 150 to avoid returning to the six-round Qualifying School.

If the Supreme Court agrees to review the case, a decision is not expected until next summer.