Disabled Golfer's Cart Draws Focus
Feb. 04, 1998
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) _ Attacking the argument that golf carts give players an unfair advantage, a touring pro testified Tuesday on behalf of Casey Martin that walking can actually improve performance.
``It helps me with my rhythm,'' said Eric Johnson, the Nike Tour's leading money winner. ``You get a full effect of the elements.''
He also said walking helps him get a better feel for the course and that in last year's PGA Tour qualifying tournament all 160 players had the option of riding in a cart and only seven or eight took it.
Martin, who suffers from a rare circulatory disorder that has shriveled his right leg, has said he would prefer to walk rather than ride, but it is just too painful.
He limped to court for a second day of trial on his lawsuit against the PGA Tour in which he is using the Americans with Disabilities Act in an attempt to ride a cart on the pro golf tour.
The PGA Tour contends that walking is a fundamental part of the game, testing each player's stamina, and that allowing Martin to ride would give him an unfair advantage. It is up to Martin's lawyers to show it isn't.
Under questioning from Martin attorney William Wiswall, Johnson said he considers walking as a part of the game ``only as a purpose to get to the next shot.''
Johnson said golf rarely makes him tired and sweaty, unless it is a hot day, and tournaments even on the PGA Tour give golfers rides in carts when there is a long distance between the green of one hole and the tee of the next.
``I can't think of any time in my golfing career when I ever felt I hit a shot where I felt I was winded,'' Johnson said.
During cross-examination, PGA Tour lawyer William Maledon got Johnson to concede walking the course is among the rules that all players on the pro tour follow.
Pressed by Maledon, Johnson acknowledged that every player brings a different set of physical attributes to the game, and the PGA Tour does not give anyone an advantage to make things even.
``John Daly hits the ball 30 yards farther than you on average,'' Maledon said. ``You don't get a 30-yard head start, do you?''
``No, I don't'' Johnson replied.
Later, Stanford golf coach Wally Goodwin, who recruited Martin and coached the team to the 1994 NCAA championship, testified that carts hinder more than help a player's game.
The PGA concedes that the Martin is disabled and has suffered the effects of the Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome his entire life.
Rather than a vein along the bone of his lower right leg, Martin has a jumble of varicose veins along the surface. The valves that normally keep the blood from flowing backward don't work, so the blood tends to pool in his lower leg whenever Martin stands, causing painful swelling and bleeding into his knee and lower leg.
The magistrate who will decide the case has given Martin the chance to ride a cart on the second-tier Nike Tour pending the outcome of this trial.
Last month, the 25-year-old golfer won the tour's event in Lakeland, Fla., and quickly was embraced by the public. He was signed for Nike's new ``I Can'' ad campaign and last week appeared at a Capitol Hill news conference where he was given the ringing support of Bob Dole.