One of the best stories in years is the fact that Casey Martin has made his way back into the U.S. Open, more than a decade after he was part of one of the most contentious stories in sports. But what was the story? A whole generation of golf fans has no idea what the Martin story was all about, so here's a quick primer.
Martin is a victim of a circulatory disorder in his right leg which makes it painful for him to walk long distances. However, he's also an exceptional golfer ... a sport in which competitors must walk long distances. Martin fought the PGA Tour over the right to use a cart, arguing that walking is not a fundamental element of the game.
Many golf advocates, including Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, disagreed with Martin's premise. In 1997, Martin sued the PGA Tour, and the case reached the Supreme Court.
In 2001, the Court ruled that Martin did indeed have the right to use the cart. Writing for the 7-2 majority, Justice John Paul Stevens denied that the cart gave Martin an unfair advantage. "What it can be said to do, on the other hand, is to allow Martin the chance to qualify for and compete in the athletic events (the PGA Tour) offers to those members of the public who have the skill and desire to enter," he wrote. In other words, the handicapped have rights to accommodations, even in professional sports.
Naturally, golf pundits predicted doom and gloom (Hal Sutton speculated that golfers with bad backs would plead to use a cart) and naturally, such horrors never manifested themselves. And far from destroying the game of golf, Martin became a footnote.
Martin will use a cart at the U.S. Open next week, and it will reopen the debate. Go ahead and get it started now: your thoughts? Remember, though ... this issue has been decided for a decade.