ADA Tenth Anniversary

Faces of the ADA

Casey Martin -- "Without the ADA I never would have been able to pursue my dream of playing golf professionally."

Casey Martin putts toward the hole.

Ever since he was a young boy, Casey Martin has played sports - and played them well. He eventually focused his energies on golf, and won 17 junior golf titles in his home state of Oregon. He also earned a scholarship to Stanford University, where he and his teammates Tiger Woods and Notay Begay won the 1994 NCAA golf championship.

Casey's accomplishments were even more notable given that he had been diagnosed with Klippel-Trenaunay-Webber Syndrome, a rare circulatory disorder that made his right leg extremely weak. Throughout his college years, Casey's condition steadily worsened as the circulatory disorder eroded the bones in his right leg. Eventually, he realized that he could not walk the entire 18 hole golf course. The only way he could make it through a round of golf was to use something that has become commonplace for most golfers: he needed a golf cart to take him from one shot to the next. The NCAA allowed him to use a cart during college tournaments.
Casey Martin in his golf cart

After graduating from Stanford with a degree in economics, Casey pursued his dream of playing golf professionally. However, he soon encountered a huge barrier. In the types of tournaments that Casey wanted to play, the PGA Tour would not allow him to use a cart.

"All I ever wanted was the chance to play and to see how good I could be," Casey says. "In order to do that, I needed one minor change in the rules."

The PGA Tour refused to change their rule, and Casey was compelled to go to court. Filing suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Casey argued that the PGA Tour is a "public accommodation" and should modify their policy to accommodate his disability. A federal trial court in Oregon agreed, and a federal appeals court in California affirmed the trial court's decision. The Department of Justice had filed a brief with the appeals court in support of Martin.

"Without the ADA I never would have been able to pursue my dream of playing golf professionally," Casey says.

Close-up of Casey Martin's face

The trial court's ruling allowed Casey to play for two years on the Nike Tour, a series of tournaments designed for young professionals who are trying to build their careers. This year, Casey qualified for the PGA Tour, and now plays alongside the greatest golfers in the world.

The future is still uncertain because the PGA Tour has decided to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. But for now, Casey Martin is able to fulfill his life's dream — because of the ADA.

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July 17, 2000