GOLF CART RULINGS
The Battle Isn't Over Yet
The ache sets in just four steps down the fairway. Soon Ford Olinger, 33, starts to feel as if he has a half-ton weight pressing on his hips. When the pain gets so bad that he has to pop an Oxycontin, a prescription painkiller, everything—from the tee in the ground to the flag in the distance—fades briefly into soft focus.
Like a certain newly minted tour player six years his junior, Olinger, a club pro from Warsaw, Ind., struggles with a handicap that not even his skill as a golfer can erase. He suffers from bilateral avascular necrosis of both hips, a degenerative disorder that makes a short stroll seem like a marathon. Like PGA Tour player Casey Martin, who has a rare circulatory disorder in his right leg, Olinger has sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act to be able to ride a cart in competition. But the two golfers' fates diverged in the courtroom.
On March 6 the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco upheld a lower court's ruling requiring the PGA Tour to permit Martin to use a cart. The following day the federal Seventh Circuit Court in Chicago ruled that the USGA, which runs the U.S Open, did not have to permit Olinger to use a cart during Open qualifying. "Casey had three judges who attacked the legal issues, whereas I got golfers for judges," lamented Olinger after hearing the decision in his case.
Indeed, while Ninth Circuit Judge William Canby Jr., a non-golfer, concluded that "the central competition in shot-making would be unaffected by Martin's accommodation," Seventh Circuit Judge Terence Evans, an avid player, plumbed golf lore in his decision to support the game's Old Guard. Evans quoted from John Feinstein's book The Majors, recalled Ben Hogan's victory in the 1950 U.S. Open one year after a devastating car accident and noted that on a typical U.S. Open championship course, "even a slightly errant shot puts the player in jail, where he usually faces at least a bogey once he gets to a lightning-fast green."
PGA Tour officials were scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss whether they'll appeal on Martin and suffer further public excoriation, or sit tight and hope for a precedent-setting USGA victory in the U.S. Supreme Court, where dinger's case appears to be headed. The USGA, which allowed Martin to ride in the last two U.S. Opens pending resolution of his case with the PGA Tour, wouldn't comment on the implications of the Olinger ruling for Martin, though executive director David Fay said, "We're very pleased with the decision." Pleased enough to force Martin to walk the Open course at Pebble Beach in June? That's within the USGA's rights.
As for Olinger, with an April 26 deadline for Open entries fast approaching, he plans to head south to Orlando to prepare his game—and his body—for qualifying. "If I have to walk, I'll walk," says Olinger, who limped through a first-round elimination in last year's local qualifier. "I'm not out to conquer the world. I just want to play in the U.S. Open."
BASKETBALL BOORS (CONT.)
Meet Joe Blake
My suggestion to you Joe is, hide for your life, kiss everyones' ass and write a letter to The Observer telling Coach D and his players...how sorry you are. I'm sure you feel bad but I don't care you will be burned at the stake my friend.
—posting by someone with the Internet alias whoknows on an NDToday.com message board
With friends like whoknows, Notre Dame sophomore Joe Blake has no need for the enemies who have directed dozens of rude phone calls and hate E-mails his way since he hurled his bottle of Powerade onto the Joyce Center court with the Fighting Irish down by two points to Syracuse with 8.8 seconds to play on March 1 (SCORECARD, March 13). The fateful toss—which came after two pieces of trash had been thrown onto the playing floor and after Notre Dame coach Matt Doherty had issued a warning over the P.A.—prompted a technical foul that cost the NIT-bound Irish a chance at a win over the Orangemen and maybe a ticket to the Big Dance.