Ruling allows golf cart on PGA Tour

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A disabled golfer can ride a cart on the professional tour, a magistrate ruled Wednesday in the first case invoking federal disabilities laws to allow someone to compete in a major sport.
Professional Golfers’ Association Tour spokesman Bob Combs said the tour would appeal, but will obey the judge.
“Now we have the obligation to furnish Casey Martin a golf cart, and we will,” he said.
U.S. Magistrate Thomas Coffin ruled that a golf course during a tournament is a place of public accommodation under the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.
Coffin said Martin’s lawyers proved the 25-year-old golfer is disabled and entitled to a reasonable accommodation — which would include a cart.
Martin’s lawsuit sought to force the PGA Tour to accommodate his rare circulatory disorder that makes it painful and even dangerous to walk. His doctors say too much stress on his withered right leg could cause it to break, and may force amputation.
The PGA Tour contended that giving Martin a cart would not only give him an unfair advantage, but also would take away the fundamental aspect of athleticism and stamina that walking brings to top-flight tournament golf.
But Coffin, who deliberated just a couple of hours, ruled that giving Martin a cart would not significantly alter the sport.
Martin’s case generated a national debate over the rights of the disabled to compete in professional sports, and an outpouring of support for him.
In the PGA Tour’s summation, its lawyer warned Coffin against allowing the strong public sympathy for Martin to cloud his judgment.
Coffin had already ruled twice in Martin’s favor, granting a preliminary injunction allowing him to ride a cart in the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament last December and denying the PGA Tour’s motion to throw out the case last month.
Riding a cart, Martin won the Nike Tour’s Lakeland, Fla., event last month, generating an outpouring of public support.
The NCAA made accommodation for Martin by allowing him to ride in a cart while playing for Stanford, and the PGA Tour allows professionals to ride carts in the early round of its qualifying tournament, so there should be no problem allowing Martin to ride at golf’s highest level, Walters said.