The Effects of the Casey Martin Ruling

ByABC News
May 29, 2001, 6:34 PM

May 30 -- Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that golfer Casey Martin will be able to ride a cart in golf tournaments, many people involved in pro sports are asking, "What next?"

Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the two dissenting votes, said he could imagine parents of a Little League player with attention deficit disorder demanding four strikes at bat because it was 25 percent more difficult for their child to hit a ball.

Martin had argued he needs a cart because even though his golf skills won him a spot on the Professional Golfers Association Tour, the premier U.S. professional golf tour, he has a degenerative leg ailment that makes it almost impossible to walk an 18-hole golf course.

In their case against Martin, the PGA Tour argued that changing its rules for one player's physical condition would fundamentally alter the competition.

Scalia also feared the ruling would lead to many more cases, "and a rich source of lucrative litigation."

But after two lower courts ruled in favor of Martin, there wasn't overwhelming worry in the air. In fact, many people said the ruling wouldn't have much of an effect at all.

Skills Before Obstacles

In the majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, "we have no doubt that allowing Martin to use a golf cart would not fundamentally alter the nature" of the PGA Tour's tournaments.

Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford said the case was unique. "If he tried to use a wheelchair playing tennis or some other individual sport, he obviously couldn't do it," Deford said. "This is one sport, one rare case. I can't see it ever coming up again."

Dave Synowka, the director of the sports management program at Robert Morris College in Pittsburgh, Pa., agreed, "I don't think this is going to be a landmark decision."

He said Martin's golf ability was the most important issue, and his disability came second. "Let's face it, to go on the PGA Tour, you're going to have to shoot par or better," Synowka said.