Casey Martin, who needs a cart to play golf, earns spot in U.S. Open with win at sectional qualifier in Oregon Casey Martin, who needs a cart to play golf, earns spot in U.S. Open with win at sectional qualifier in Oregon
Famous for winning a landmark 2001 case against the USGA to be allowed to use a golf cart because of a degenerative leg condition, Tiger Woods’ old Stanford teammate qualified for next week’s U.S. Open by snatching the first of two spots open at the Sectional Qualifier in Creswell, Oregon late Monday.
Martin will return to the Olympic Club in San Francisco, where he played his only major in a cart 14 years ago. He’ll be allowed to use the cart in 2012, too.
“It means a lot,” Martin told the Golf Channel after holing a five-footer in near darkness to avoid a playoff. “I think that actually helps coming back. I really haven’t even thought about this. So I just kind of went and played golf. And amazingly for not playing in nine days before this tournament, or before today, I played great. I hit a lot of great shots. I was choking down the stretch, I mean, but I hit a lot of great shots. I was kind of, I was enjoying it. It was kind of different. So I liked it.”
Martin’s preparation time was cut down because he was at the NCAAs with the Oregon Ducks, whom he has coached for the last six seasons after ending his competitive career, mostly on the Nationwide Tour.
Monday, however, it seemed that fortune smiled on him. After his tee shot was blown way off course by the wind, he had almost used up the allotted time searching for a lost ball on the eighth hole. His caddie found it in the mud — beneath his parked golf cart of all places. From there, he made birdie instead of taking a stroke and distance penalty for a likely double bogey.
“I kind of realized maybe something was going on,” he admitted. “I kind of had a peace about that, that something’s going on here because that’s a little bigger than myself.”
Martin actually beat one of his players, Oregon senior Daniel Miernicki, for the first spot Monday, edging him by a stroke. Milernicki will play Oregon State junior Nick Sherwood Tuesday for the final spot.
Martin plays only 15-20 rounds a year these days. His condition, Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, restricts the blood flow in his lower right leg, making it extremely painful to walk and he cannot play a round without riding. He limps to his ball from his cart, hits his shot and limps back.
He told The Oregonian the leg, which he once feared might require amputation, “still aches a bit” and that “tomorrow might not be a good day.” Still, turning 40 Saturday, he figured he’d take one last shot at qualifying for the Open.
“I just thought it was the right time to try again,” he said. “Why not? I’m glad I did.”
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So are a lot of other people.