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
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.
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.
Can you share a little bit about your disability-Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber
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.
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.
what ways have your faith, disability and career merged to make
you who you are today?
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.
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.
did you commit your life to Christ?
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.
made you encouraged to try professional golf despite the pain?
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.
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?
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
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
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?
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.
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.
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."
I look back, I think it was part of God's plan that it worked
out just the way it did.
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.