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 July - August 2004
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COVER STORY: Casey Martin was thrilled to play professional golf, but he never thought he'd be thrown into the spotlight because of his disability. . .
When Your Pain is Not Being Treated
WARNING: Beware of Bible Cures!
God is in the Details
Sun, Sun, Find the Shade
Why Can't I Make People Understand? Book Excerpt
When God Hollers, "No!"
Talk Over Tea with the Editor
Tell Us Your Thoughts
Strive to Thrive Health News
Joy Bites
Strength in the Shadows
Volunteer Corner
Book Review: What Would Jesus Eat?
Ask the Doc
HopeNotes: hopekeepers
Group & Leader




Even if you don't watch golf each weekend, you can't help but like Casey Martin. Golfing as a child, he never realized he'd one day be able to do it for a living--much less that he'd be interviewed by major television networks about a court decision that has become known as "the Casey Martin Ruling." Casey lives with Klippel-Trenaunay-Webber Syndrome, a rare circulatory disorder that makes his right leg extremely weak and he lives with daily chronic pain.

Years ago, realizing he could barely walk the course for the tours he wanted to play, he asked to use a cart, but PGA Tour refused. So in 1998 Casey went to court, filing suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act, arguing that the PGA Tour is a "public accommodation" and should modify their policy to accommodate his disability. Over three years later a federal trial court in Oregon agreed, and a federal appeals court in California affirmed the trial court's decision.

Casey has a great deal he could discuss with me. He could talk about his scholarship to Stanford University where he played golf with teammates Tiger Woods and Notay Begay. He could casually mention the Casey Martin Award that Nike named after him to honor people with disabilities who have made a difference in sports. I'm wondering what he thought of being ranked as People Magazine's #9 eligible bachelor a few years ago. He could even talk about the severity of the pain and how the word "amputation" has come up. But he doesn't. With humility and a sweet spirit he sits down and is just himself. He talks about the game--the game on the course, but most importantly how to stay in the game of life.

hk: Can you share a little bit about your disability-Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome.

CM: I admit I don't know how it's going to compare with [your readers] because I am not on the severe side of chronic pain. But I was born with it and I have had pain every day of my life. Basically, what's wrong with my leg is the blood will go down into my leg but I don't have the proper pump system; the veins and arteries are kind of jacked up so the blood doesn't make it back up properly and it swells a lot. I wear stockings that keep it compressed or it will swell up.

I have a lot of discomfort to a certain extreme. My tibia is also very tender since I've had a lot of deterioration in my right shin. It's extremely painful to the touch, and it does ache at night. I'm dealing with pain all the time, whether I'm just standing or taking a golf swing. At times, it's very painful and relentless.

In what ways have your faith, disability and career merged to make you who you are today?

My faith is obviously very important to me and has a big impact, as in trying to persevere with golf when it hasn't gone very well recently. You know, you just learn to trust in the Lord and He "gets it." My faith can be very encouraging; I know that this life is temporary, we're going to a better place and God's got a good plan.

But at the same time, I'll be like, "God, give me a break!" Knowing that He has the power to heal and to change my circumstances, and He doesn't, can be frustrating. So I kind of ride the waves on those two things. But my faith overrides my struggles-whether physical or career. I'm sure this is part of the gig-just learning to trust God through the circumstances.

When did you commit your life to Christ?

I grew up in a Christian home, so probably when I was about five years old. By my junior year in college I would say my faith became the most important thing.

What made you encouraged to try professional golf despite the pain?

Well, I love sports and would have chosen to play basketball or football had I been able to, but because of my leg it wasn't really an option. My father and older brother played golf so I was going to do what they were doing. . . and I was good at it at a young age and could do it with a lot less discomfort than running around the neighbor-hood. I played because it was the only thing I could really play. So, ironically, my leg kind of focused me and narrowed my choices down. I never thought I would physically be able to play professional golf. I had a scholarship for college and it just made sense for me to keep trying every step of the way. I've been good enough to keep going; not that it's been easy, but I've had enough success to justify continuing. Even though I haven't had success these past few years, I feel like if I can get through it, I'll be better, so I persevere and hang in there.

You've had surgeries with recoveries that aren't real fun. What have you done to stay encouraged, when your body isn't cooperating, or you're just stuck in bed?

There was just the one time a couple of years ago where I've was stuck in bed. I had tried to get some help with my leg and it backfired; it was infected by a procedure and they had to take out a lot of tissue. I was in the hospital for a couple weeks and bed rest for a couple after that. It was a bad deal, but fortunately my family and friends were nearby, so I got through it. It could have been a lot worse, but it was still frustrating. I didn't understand. I had prayed about the surgery and thought that I was doing the right thing. Then it ends up almost killing me. I don't really have any answers for you like how to deal with it-it's annoying.

I said a lot of prayer. . . but this isn't to be callous or anything, but sometimes that can frustrate you; if you pray a lot and then you don't get the answers you want, you're kind of left out there wondering, "What did I do wrong?" or "What's this all about?" A lot of people have dealt with a lot worse things than I have and I think that's the one perspective that I have tried to take in my life. Even though I would like my circumstances to change, they could change for the worse quickly too. I know I am blessed. Certainly, my faith brings me through, just knowing the promises of God that He'll bring you through if you keep hoping in Him.

Some people have said that by not walking the course, you are given an extra benefit in playing golf, by having less fatigue, and more stamina than the other golfers. If you could have explained how draining pain is, what would you have said?

I've been asked that a ton and I basically have a pretty candid answer: given the opportunity to ride with a bad leg or walk with a healthy leg, I'm going to choose to walk every time. I mean, one couldn't really choreograph a situation where I would rather ride with my leg than be healthy and walk. I think it's pretty valid that I'm not getting a better deal.

It must have been very difficult to hear people talking about your motives and disability, when they knew nothing about the specifics.

When people were talking about how I was going to destroy the game I kind of laughed. Accommodating people with disabilities has never ruined anything else, whether it be a parking place or a wheelchair ramp. So, I knew that was kind of a stretch.

But I also tried to put myself in [the court's] situation instead of being angry. They're trying to have a level playing field and make [the decision about allowing a disabled person to use a golf cart] as simple as possible. It would be much more difficult for them to say, "this is allowed, this is not, this person can ride, this person cannot."

As I look back, I think it was part of God's plan that it worked out just the way it did.

You can read the rest of this article in the July/August issue which can be ordered here.

Interviewer, Michelle Safley lives in Vancouver, WA and has experienced multiple knee injuries over the years. She's the sister of Lisa Copen.

This article was featured in our July/August 2004 issue.
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