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Disabled Golfer Granted Right to Use Carts on PGA Tour

Aired May 29, 2001 - 12:13   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Now to the nation's highest court where this morning, it handed down several rulings, among a decision in the case of disabled professional golfer Casey Martin. Joining us from the steps of the Supreme Court, CNN senior Washington correspondent Charles Bierbauer -- Charles.

CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SR. WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Casey Martin's career as a professional golfer has come here in court rather than on the golf course. Here, by a 7-2 margin, the court has ruled that the Americans With Disabilities Act does apply to Casey Martin, and that the PGA Tour must accommodate here.

Martin has a circulatory disease that affects his ability to walk and he had sued the PGA tour for the ability to use a golf cart to get from tee to green. There is no question that Casey Martin make the golf shots, but what the court has said is that riding in the cart does not fundamentally alter the game of golf, the essence of which, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, is still shot-making.

So, this decision will open up the possibilities for Casey Martin to continue his professional career. He's actually playing on the Buy.com tour this year, sort of a second echelon tour, and he's headed for a tournament, we think up in Pennsylvania, possibly this week. But this will be an important distinction for him, but for others with disabilities as well, who will now be able to make individual claims as to why they should be or not be permitted to have a waiver, an exemption from the laws of golf, in this instance -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Definitely a big story we'll be continuing to follow, Charles. Other rulings that came down today, can you brief us on those?

BIERBAUER: Well, a couple of other things that the court did today: not ruling so much in cases they've heard but denials of cases that they won't hear, one of which applies to the city of Elkhart, Indiana which had appealed a lower court ruling seeking to retain a monument on public grounds which holds the 10 Commandments. It's been in the town of Elkhart for more than 40 years, but several citizens have protested that it violates the separation of church of state, and the Supreme Court, by denying the city's appeal, is agreeing with the lower court, which says that that monument has to go, that it doesn't have a place on public ground.

Also, the court denied an appeal with regard to a race-based selection process for the University of Washington Law School. This would have been a test of affirmative action. It actually applies to a process which the school no longer uses, and when the justices denied an appeal, they don't really spell out the reasons why they won't hear that case.

One might surmise, though, that they are waiting for a later case to come down that involves the University of Michigan, where there is also a test -- actually, two cases involving the affirmative action at the University of Michigan. So, we can't draw too many inferences from today's denial, but we can look for the court to take up affirmative action or address it later on.

PHILLIPS: Charles Bierbauer. Thanks so much. Well, we're going to stay on the topic of that Casey Martin decision. Joining us now by phone to talk about the ruling, Frank Deford of "Sports Illustrated" magazine. Frank, thanks for joining us.

FRANK DEFORD, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": My pleasure, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, first of all, your overall reaction; do you think this is good for golf?

DEFORD: Oh, boy. I think the PGA is awfully lucky that they lost this. Every time I have spoken, given any speeches, I have always asked for a show of hands, and among the golfers or not golfers, it's always 80 or 90 percent who think Casey Martin should be allowed to ride in that cart, and I think the PGA is a lot luckier that they lost this battle because they won the war.

PHILLIPS: That's interesting, do you think the PGA will now kind of consider the issue of attitude and perception of athletes with disorders or disabilities differently now versus just a change in the rules?

DEFORD: No, Kyra. I think that, as Charles said, each case has to be decided on the individual merits, and if somebody comes in with a carbuncle on their foot and says they should be allowed to ride in the cart, nobody will take them seriously. This was a special case, and there will be other special cases. I think it's probably very unlikely that the matter will ever come up again in our lifetime.

PHILLIPS: Well, Frank, the PGA already allows carts on the senior circuit and some pro tournaments to speed up play, so why fight Casey Martin?

DEFORD: Well, I think what they wanted to do more than anything else was to say, we control the rules of our tournaments. We can do what we want to in our tournaments; you, the courts, the public, have no right to tell us how to run them any more, say, than somebody can come in and say, if they're four balls in baseball, there should also be four strikes. We run the show. I think that's what they wanted to do.

I always wondered, for example, had they won this case, they might then have very well said, I would have done it, if I were them, OK, we won the case, Casey Martin is welcome to have his cart. I think that the public relations was so much against them, the public was so much against them, that they really were very, very fortunate tonight.

PHILLIPS: Are there any other athletes that know who endure disorders and they play golf, Frank?

DEFORD: Well, I mean, there are all sorts of people who play every week, I mean, not only on the tour. This is a very, very unusual condition that he has, a very sad condition. And that's why I think it's very unlikely that someone who has this kind of disability will ever again be good enough to participate on the tour.

And it really requires, as is his case, a deteriorating situation. He could have never played golf unless at one point he had been much healthier. It's very unlikely that this will be replicated; very unlikely indeed.

PHILLIPS: It's Casey Martin hitting the ball, not that cart, right Frank?

DEFORD: Well, and I think that's basically what they said, and it's very difficult. You know, Mark Twain once said, "Golf is a good walk spoiled." And maybe that says it better than anybody else.

PHILLIPS: Frank Deford, always a great interview. Thanks so much, sir, for joining us at the last minute there.

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