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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This Day in Legal History -- PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin, 532 U.S. 61 (2001)



On this date in legal history in 2001 the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of PGA Tour, Inc. v. Martin. While not a landmark case, it is interesting because few sports-related cases reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

Martin was Casey Martin a professional golfer who suffers from Klippel Trenaunay Syndrome. This genetic defect causes abnormal growth of blood cells or the lymphatic system and causes pain and makes it difficult to walk, especially the distances involved in 18 holes of golf. Martin had played college golf at Stanford, where he had been a teammate of Tiger Woods, and wished to play professionally on the PGA tour and wanted to be allowed to ride in a golf cart between holes due to his medical condition. 

The PGA denied Martin’s request and asserted that walking between holes was an integral part of the game and riding in a cart would provide Martin with an unfair advantage. Martin sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

The court ruled 7-2 in favor of Martin. Perhaps the most notable result of the case was the finding that walking was not fundamental to golf, thus making a lie out of Mark Twain’s statement about golf being “a good walk spoiled.”  Scalia punctuates his (typically) angry dissent with a quote from Kurt Vonnegut about “everybody was finally equal.” 

Although Casey Martin went all the way to the Supreme Court and won, he has not been as fortunate in his professional golfing career which has been spotty at best. He is currently the head coach of the University of Oregon golf team, and although he qualified for the 2012 U.S. Open, he failed to make the cut.

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