Casey Martin has a right leg two sizes too small and a heart three sizes too big. His doctors say chances are good he'll lose that leg, maybe someday soon. He'll step in a gopher hole or he won't see a tee marker, and his balsa tibia will snap. When it snaps, the leg will probably have to come off. "I only have so many steps left in it," Martin says.
Won't that be a proud moment for Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem? And won't all the others who've tried to stop the kid from using a cart—to preserve the "purity" of the game-be feeling awfully noble then? Maybe they'll stand on their two strong legs in their mahogany trophy rooms and drink to their integrity.
Shame on them. Shame on their lawyers. Shame on every self-important and greedy Tour pro who won't budge an inch of tradition to fit in a spoonful of compassion.
Of course Martin should get a cart. Anybody with a bus token for a heart knows that. Golf fans want to see golfers play golf. I've never heard anybody yet say, "Hey, let's get over to 9 and watch Seve walk!" Fans don't care if a pro walks, rides or pogo-sticks to the next shot—they just want to see him hit it.
The 25-year-old Martin isn't asking for any help playing the game. He's only asking for a lift to his ball. Golf isn't an obstacle course. Any blimp can walk 18 holes. Exhibit A: Fat Jack, who ate up every tournament he entered, including the buffet tables. Hey, who leads the Tour stats in Holes Walked, anyway?
Look, I've heard all the arguments against Martin's using a cart, and I wouldn't give you a warm pitcher of spit for any of them. PGA Tour officials say they're trying to protect the "tradition" of the game. If that sounds familiar, it's the word they trotted out in the 1950s to keep blacks off the Tour. Here's golf busy celebrating Tiger Woods and the game's new diversity, but, yo, fellas, diversity isn't just about color. Diversity is a guy wearing a leg-long bandage whose knee aches every minute he's on it, trying to prove something to himself and, by the way, to the world.
Martin is suing the PGA Tour for a cart, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the PGA Tour says carts would tilt the level playing field. Then why are carts allowed during the Tour qualifying stages? And on the Senior tour? Arnie himself, the one who testified against Martin in a deposition two weeks ago, rode one on the Senior tour last year. Please.
The PGA Tour says it's a slippery slope. If Martin gets a cart, does Fred Couples get one for his back? Jos� Mar�a Olaz�bal for his feet? No problem. The rule will be simple: If you qualify for disabled parking, we'll give you a cart.
The people who invoke that "purity" argument are the same ones who whined about yardage markers, gallery ropes, metal drivers, the "hot" ball, cavity-backed irons, the long putter and soft spikes. They've all arrived, and, last I checked, golf is more popular than ever.
I hear old guys wheezing on about Ben Hogan's having to walk during his comeback after crashing into a bus. Do you think what Martin has done is any less brave? He suffers from a rare circulatory disorder, and doctors say his condition is "worsening." The minute he takes the two support stockings off his right leg, it swells up like a bagpipe. He's in pain 24 hours a day, so now he has trouble sleeping too. During his swing he turns on a leg as skinny as a Little Leaguer's bat. Yet he won the Lakeland Classic on the Nike tour last month. What, only Hogan gets to be a legend?