Once again, Casey Martin’s use of a golf cart has caused a stir. As you may remember, over a decade ago, in 2001, Martin successfully sued the PGA Tour and won the right to be able to participate in events with the use of a cart. The reason for his transportation need is the fact that he has a rare circulatory disorder, known as Klippel Trenaunay Weber syndrome, which has severely impacted his legs.
While he no longer plays professionally, Martin has found himself a pretty sweet gig as the head golf coach at the University of Oregon. It was in that role as head golf coach that he attended the U.S. Junior Amateur tournament in order to scout a few possible recruits. Martin says that he cleared the use of the golf cart with tournament director Matt Pawlak. As such, he didn’t expect any issues to arise. He was wrong.
After about half a dozen holes, Martin was stopped by a USGA official and told that he was not able to use the cart to get around the golf course. “I said, ‘Man, I went to the Supreme Court, and I know what my rights are. Do they know my story?’” Martin said. “And he said, ‘Yes, they know.’”
“I said, ‘Let me ride this.’ He apologized but said he couldn’t. I said, ‘I know I can use this cart, but if not, can you or someone take me around?’ He said, ‘We can take you to a point on the course and drop you. We can’t cart you around.’”
Martin went on to say that this was one of the worst experiences of his golfing career – even worse than the intense fight that he had to endure 12 years ago. I can certainly understand his frustration. He hasn’t had any issues in over a decade, and Martin has said that during that time every venue he has been to has been extremely accommodating. “It was brutal, the worst experience of my golfing career,” he told USA TODAY Sports. “The long story short: I’m living my life, doing my job, and it sucked to have that taken away. I felt like I got on the bus and they ordered me to the back or even to get off.” It must be crushing to think that you’ve moved past something only to have it resurface when you least expect it to happen.
For their part, the USGA issued a statement trying to explain that it was all a big misunderstanding. “The unfortunate situation at the U.S. Junior qualifier stems from a misunderstanding over the USGA Cart Policy at our championship events. We regret that this misunderstanding may have caused Casey an inconvenience, but it certainly was unintentional. We have extended to Casey accommodations that we offer all disabled spectators at our championships. Despite this unfortunate situation, we continue to admire what Casey has been able to accomplish in the game as both a player and a coach.”
The Southern California Golf Association also went into damage control mode. “We are sorry for the confusion caused by our misunderstanding of how to apply the USGA’s policy,” their statement said. “We alerted Mr. Martin as soon as we were notified by the USGA that we were not properly enforcing their policy. We then attempted to accommodate Mr. Martin in every way available within the guidelines of the USGA policy, but he declined assistance.”
I don’t blame him for turning down any assistance after he was discriminated against. I would be infuriated. It sounds to me like the USGA and the Southern California Golf Association kicked the public relations machine into overdrive to avoid a potential PR nightmare and to attempt to avoid any accountability for their actions.
In this day and age, there is simply no excuse for such oversights or misunderstandings.