Now here's a guy you haven't thought about for awhile.
Casey Martin is 40 now and the golf coach at the University of Oregon, but 15 years ago he was a cause celebre for a certain species of dim bulb who thought doing the right and decent thing was some egregious act of political correctness.
To wit: Martin was a golfer with considerable game who just happened to be born with Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, a malady that left one of his legs frailer than a matchstick. Consequently, though he was willing to risk amputation and walk if he had to, he wanted to use a golf cart to play on the PGA Tour.
The Tour, and a lot of right-wing blowholes, reacted as if Martin had asked to pee in Rae's Creek. Golfers who routinely used carts themselves, like Arnold Palmer, railed that using a cart would give Martin an unfair advantage, even though he was the one going one-healthy-leg-against-two every time he stepped on the course. Walking suddenly was regarded as an integral part of the game, as if all those mobs who turned out to watch Tiger Woods every weekend were there not because they liked the way swung a golf club, but because they admired the way he could put one foot in front of another.
On and on the arguments went, one more absurd than the next. Why, if Martin successfully sued to use a cart (charging, rightly, that the PGA was no more above the law, i.e. the Americans With Disabilities Act, than any other employer), the floodgates would be open. Golfers with hangnails would suddenly demand to use carts! Quadruple amputees would force their way onto the Tour! 17-handicaps would declare that an actual handicap, subjecting all of us to their hideous banana slices and duck hooks!
Well, none of that happened, of course. Martin won his suit, used a cart, and wound up playing the satellite tour. Eventually, because whether he could walk to his ball or not didn't have a thing to do with how well he could hit it once he got there, his career was defined by the same elements that define every golfer's career.
Hitting fairways and greens. Jarring putts. Making birdie instead of bogey.
Now he's back in the news, playing in the U.S. Open at Olympic this week. He'll be riding a cart. And 15 years after he became a political football for radio meatheads and stuffy Defenders Of the Game, no one will so much as hoist an eyebrow over that.
Partly that's because Martin's suit forced the USGA to change its rules and allow carts for those with severe disabilities. If the Tour has suffered appreciably for that, as the doomsayers claimed it would, it's certainly not evident. In fact, 15 years along, you probably couldn't find one person out of 10 in a PGA gallery who even knows that carts haven't always been allowed.
So the question becomes: What was all the fuss about? What?