Casey Martin’s qualification for the U.S. Open is still a remarkable achievement.
His name may cause controversy in some circles due to a lengthy legal battle with the PGA Tour over his ability to use a cart during tournaments. Martin pursued the case all the way to the Supreme Court and eventually won.
Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus publicly opposed the decision and said, "That's all the tour wanted to have - to have all the players play by the same rules," via Jim Axelrod of CBSnews.com.
Martin suffers from a birth defect that affects the circulation in his leg, causing him severe pain. Tiger Woods, who played with Martin on the Stanford golf team, was quoted in Axelrod's article as saying: “Unless you really know him, I don't think people really have an appreciation of how much pain he's in. He just lives with it.”
Due to his condition, Martin never had much success on the tour. His best result at a major was at the 1998 U.S. Open when he finished in a tie for 23rd.
He has not competed at an event in six years, and has been the full-time head golf coach at the University of Oregon.
After so much time away from the game and with a serious condition, Martin’s qualification for the U.S. Open is remarkable. Mike Davis, the executive director of the United States Golf Association, estimated that 9,000 golfers attempt to qualify for 75-85 spots at the tournament, according to Axelrod’s report.
Martin shot a 74 in the opening round, which does not put him among the leaders, but is still an admirable result given the circumstances.
Nicklaus has a perfectly valid point when in defending the PGA Tour. It is difficult to imagine another sport making special considerations at a major competition for a player with an injury or health condition.
But rehashing this controversy from a decade ago cheapens how inspiring Martin’s play at this year’s U.S. Open truly is.
Whether he is riding in a cart or not, he has overcome monumental odds to just be on the course. There is no player in the tournament easier to root for than Martin.