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Disabled Golfer Doesn’t Qualify

June 20, 2000

FAIR OAKS RANCH, Texas (AP) _ JaRo Jones, who sued the U.S. Golf Association over the right to use a cart, failed to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open on Monday.

Using a court-authorized cart, Jones shot a 12-over-par 84 at Fairway Oaks Ranch Country Club near San Antonio. He missed the last of six qualifying spots by 15 shots.

``I will definitely be back next year,″ Jones said. ``The only thing we can do is explain the issues. I pay careful attention where I drive this cart. I respect golf courses and I’m careful where I drive.″

Jones, a 53-year-old former teaching pro from Baytown, needs a cane to walk and a cart to play. He has a debilitating muscle disease that affects his legs and shoulders.

Jones approached the USGA about riding a cart for the Senior Open qualifying tournament, but was denied. He sued, claiming it was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

U.S. District Judge James R. Nowlin issued a preliminary injunction Thursday, forcing the USGA to allow Jones to use a cart.

``Whether I qualify or not ... it’s the point that I do have the opportunity to try,″ Jones said after the injunction was issued.

Jones got his opportunity, but not everyone in the field was happy about it.

``I’m upset about the slow play and the depressions,″ said Larry Timpe, who claimed Jones’ cart left marks on the fringe around the greens. ``I want everyone to play, but there was not a level playing field.″

Jones had polio when he was 4 and was diagnosed with post-polio syndrome, which causes the muscles in his shoulders and legs to atrophy, when he was 46. Since 1995, he has traveled the country teaching other disabled people how to play golf.

Jones won the right to ride this time, but the issue could ultimately end up with the U.S. Supreme Court as federal appeals courts have issued conflicting rulings in cases similar to Jones’.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court in Chicago ruled in March against a disabled club pro from Indiana. The court said a cart would change the nature of competition and that such rules were best left to the governing body.

Meanwhile, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court in San Francisco upheld a lower court ruling that allows Casey Martin to ride a cart on the PGA Tour. The USGA allowed Martin to use a cart for U.S. Open qualifying, but he failed to advance.

The Senior Open starts June 29 at Saucon Valley C.C., in Bethlehem, Pa.

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