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After his victory in an Oregon courtroom on Feb. 11, Casey Martin got a belated invitation from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. "The lawyers have made all their arguments," said Finchem, a lawyer. "It's going to take years for the appellate process to resolve this issue. In the meantime, let's see how well Casey can play."
Many Tour players were less conciliatory. Fred Couples called federal magistrate Tom Coffin's ruling "a farce." Brandel Chamblee said the pros might load their carts with beer and sandwiches. Tom Watson said he was considering demanding a cart. "Would I play better? No question!" Watson fumed.
Meanwhile Martin, who recently signed an equipment deal with Karsten Manufacturing, hesitated as if wondering what to do next. Should he stay on the Nike tour? Or request sponsors' exemptions into PGA Tour eventsthe surest way to fulfill his dream of playing at the game's highest level? These were new questions; no one had the answers yet.
Suppose you're Tom Pulchinski, tournament director of the Nissan Open in Los Angeles. Do you keep Martin out to please the PGA Tour, or invite him and turn your Tour stop into the biggest sports event since the Super Bowl? "We would not shut him out just because he won a court case against the Tour, but we won't be putting him in just because he rides a cart," said Pulchinski, who finally opted not to invite him.
Officials at this week's Tucson Chrysler Classic came close to offering Martin an exemption. Having Casey in the field "might be bigger mediawise than having Tiger [Woods]," said a Tucson spokeswoman. Then they heard from Martin's camp: No thanks. Agent Jim Lehman, Tour star Tom Lehman's brother, said his client needed rest after a month of legal battles, TV interviews, Nike commercial shoots and a trip to Washington, D.C., to support the Americans with Disabilities Act. Martin was also worried about appearances. He fretted that other players would be offended "if he took advantage of his situation too early," said Lehman. Melinda Martin felt the weight of her son's worries. "Truthfully, he would love to play in Tucson or at Doral or anywhere on the big Tour, but he doesn't feel he has the right," she said.
After being offered an exemption to the March 5-8 Doral-Ryder Open, Martin turned it down. He had promised to play at the Nike Greater Austin Open. Martin's only major move came on Monday, when he moved out of his parents' house in Eugene, Ore. He drove 10 hours (stopping every 100 miles or so to elevate his leg) to Foster City, Calif., where he will share a condo with a former Stanford teammate. The most talked-about man in golf made the trip alone.
Issue date: February 23, 1998
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