Tuesday, May 29, 2001
Updated: May 30, 4:44 PM ET
Interpretation of ruling remains at issue
By By Wayne Drehs
Despite the Supreme Court's decision Tuesday allowing Casey Martin to keep his cart, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said he was confident the ruling could result in a "win-win" situation for all parties involved.
That's because the way the ruling was written, Finchem said, it appears to allow the Tour the ability to maintain its own rules that walking is an essential part of the sport. Martin, in this case, would prove to be a unique exception.
"It seems that they've given us the latitude to continue enforcing our rules," Finchem said. "The court was clearly focused in its decision that this pertains to Casey Martin and Casey Martin only.
"I'm reasonably confident, based on what we see in the opinion, that we should be able to end up in an environment where exceptions are extremely infrequent and possibly non-existent. There is much more light at the end of the tunnel than we thought there might have been."
Others aren't so sure. John Hamilton, the attorney for Ford Olinger, a golf professional from Warsaw, Ind., who lost a case similar to Martin's in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, said he believes the ruling will help his client as well.
Olinger, 34, suffers from avascular necrosis of both hips, a disease that leads to the decay of the bone structure. Olinger sued the United States Golf Association in hopes of being allowed to use a cart in his qualification attempts for the U.S. Open. in 1999.
Hamilton said he believes this ruling opens the door for his client to use a cart.
"I disagree (with Finchem)," Hamilton said. "The major impact of this is that the PGA and therefore the USGA must provide an individualized review of each applicant's situation. And anybody who can demonstrate they are truly disabled and need the cart is a good candidate.
"There won't be an opening of the floodgates, per say, but any competent golfer who needs a cart and can demonstrate that will be able to compete like anybody else. This includes Mr. Olinger."
Hamilton said the USGA already has attempted to reach him in regards to how the Martin decision will affect Olinger's future ability to use a cart for U.S. Open qualifying.
Ray Reardon, Martin's attorney, said he also was puzzled by Finchem's interpretation.
"It's not win-win," Reardon said. "If that was the case, he could have ended this a long time ago. All they had to say was that they were making an exception for an extraordinarily unique situation and everybody would have gone away happy.
"The court decided that letting Casey use a cart did not fundamentally change the game. And the PGA (Tour) can argue that point with anyone who applies for an exemption, but I think they'll be wiser than that. At least I hope they will."
Finchem said Tuesday that there was a "very strong sentiment" within the PGA Tour that if the organization would have won the case, they would have tried to find a way to allow Martin to ride regardless. Finchem said Tour lawyers were in the process of evaluating how they could make an exception for Martin without eliminating walking as an integral part of the sport.
"But coming into this, we did not have that figured out. We did not know how we could have done that," Finchem said. "It wasn't impossible, but we wanted to see that if we won the opinion, might it be written in such a way that would give us flexibility."
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org