Handing the keys of a cart to Casey Martin is the easy part for the PGA Tour. All commissioner Tim Finchem has to do now is figure out who might be next in line.
Someone with a degenerative hip? A bad back? Asthma?
While Finchem said he will spend the next several weeks reviewing the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that gives Martin the right to ride, his initial interpretation was that the PGA Tour can continue to operate the way it always has.
If you play, you walk -- unless you're Casey Martin.
"I think we can reasonably assume, from this initial reading of the opinion, that we now have the flexibility to maintain our rules as they relate to walking," Finchem said. "While we have some further legal review to do, I believe our recommendation to our policy board will be to continue our rules as written.
"I believe this case can be resolved as a matter that relates only to Casey Martin."
Martin is the only player sanctioned to ride a cart in PGA Tour competition, and the only player to ride down the narrow fairways of a U.S. Open.
His story is not just one of a golfer saddled with a rare circulatory disease in his right leg that makes it virtually impossible to walk an 18-hole course, but of a disabled player who still managed to reach the highest level of competitive golf.
One of the tour's fears about being on the wrong end of the ruling was that it might lose its right to set the rules, and that it could invite any number of players who want a cart.
Finchem, however, said the Supreme Court opinion seemed to say what several people have noticed all along -- players like Martin are rare.
"They go so far as to say that Casey Martin may be the only individual in the world that has the combination of the talent necessary to play on the PGA Tour and a disability which precludes him from walking the golf course and playing the game," Finchem said.
Roy Reardon, Martin's attorney, agreed with Finchem that the opinion was narrow as it relates to his client.
Still, he sniffed at suggestions by Finchem that it could turn out to be a win-win situation -- Casey gets his cart, the tour can set its own rules. Reardon said the tour could have achieved that 3 1/2 years ago, instead of taking Martin through two additional rounds of court battles, making him play under the uncertainty of how long he could have a cart.
"It's certainly not a win-win," Reardon said. "He could have had this win-win a long time ago by simply agreeing to give Casey a pass. I think it's a win for Casey and for the disabled in America. I don't think it will be as hurtful as the PGA was predicting."
Martin didn't learn about the decision until his cell phone woke him from a peaceful sleep -- annoyed at first, until he realized it was 7:25 a.m. Tuesday, about the time the Supreme Court releases its opinions.
The real surprise was the caller -- Finchem.
"Tim told me I had prevailed, and he congratulated me," Martin said.
For someone who has found one hurdle after another in his way during a lifetime of pain, Martin said he had been bracing for the worst and was prepared to accept the decision.
"It's a relief to get it behind me, that I don't have to deal with any more legal issues," Martin said. "It's no guarantee that golf will be in my future forever, but I can always look back and know that I prevailed. And that means a lot."
Not even Martin is sure what the ruling means, other than he can prepare to play without worrying if his next tournament will be his last on wheels.
He did not think it would affect other sports, finding it hard to believe the NBA would find room for a wheelchair athlete. But he held open the possibility that there may be others like him on the links.
"I think golf is the one sport where you can see it again -- a prothesis or needing accommodation," he said. "I don't think disabled athletes will take over major sports."
The biggest impact from his 3 1/2-year battle, Martin said, was making the PGA Tour or any other sports organization not leap so quickly to conclusions.
"I think this opens the door for people, before an institution like the PGA automatically knocks down somebody's desire for accommodations," Martin said. "They might have to think twice, and hopefully give some careful consideration."
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