Where’s Tonya Harding when you need her?

Tim Paluch

It’s a Sunday afternoon sometime in the near future; the temperature is hovering around the century mark and the sun is smoldering.

After four days and 72 holes, Casey Martin is tied for the lead at this week’s golf tournament. Off the tee on the first playoff hole, John Q. Hastowalk, PGA veteran, slices his shot into the trees. Martin smacks one right down the middle of the fairway, then hops in his cart to make his way to the ball.

The sweat-soaked Hastowalk puts his second shot in the sand and looks back just in time to see Martin come over the hill in his cart, the cool breeze flowing through his hair. He’s smiling. And his shirt is dry. Relaxed and refreshed, Martin puts his second shot on the green.

Who do you think wins today?

So why, pray tell, is Martin allowed to participate in this tournament with a golf cart?

Well, I’ll tell you – because the U.S. Supreme Court stuck its dirty little nose where it didn’t belong, forever changing the sport and possibly opening up a “pandora’s box” that could change the face of professional sports in the future.

In last week’s 7-2 Supreme Court decision allowing Casey Martin to use a golf court on the professional tour, the Court ruled that walking is not a fundamental part of the sport, thereby discounting an age-old PGA rule saying it is. The Court said golfing is about hitting balls with sticks, and letting Martin have a cart will not give him an unfair advantage.

While I do feel sorry for Martin, who is suffering from a circulatory ailment that leaves his right leg all but useless, and I am a supporter of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a line needs to be drawn.

Professional sports is the pinnacle of individual athletic achievement that some, unfortunately, can not reach.

While Martin is obviously a fine golfer, he is not a great golfer worthy of the PGA tour, and if that is because of his leg ailment, so be it.

Martin has won only one tournament as a professional, a tournament that just so happened to have a delay, forcing the field to play 36 holes on Sunday. Think Casey had an “unfair advantage” that day? I do.

After suing the PGA in 1997 (he won the suit), Martin was allowed to use a cart while the PGA appealed. While he is still on the Buy.com tour and doesn’t appear to be breaking through to the PGA tour anytime soon, the sheer magnitude of this ruling could turn Augusta or Pebble Beach into the Indy 500.

If Martin gets a cart, who else gets one?

How about professional golfers with diabetes or chronic back problems? Arthritis? Asthma? Allergies? How does the PGA, now within the reach of the arm of the U.S. government, stop such an influx of cart requests?

Martin has a circulatory problem in his right leg. Well, there are more than a handful of pro golfers out there with twinkie problems in their right ventricles. Isn’t being grossly overweight somewhat of a disability?

This ruling does no good, and again shows the ignorance of the elite of this country. The Americans with Disabilities Act calls for “reasonable modifications” for disabled people, unless such changes would fundamentally alter the place or event.

Anyone who’s ever attempted to hack their way through 18 holes on a Saturday morning knows there is a difference between walking and driving a cart. In fact, it may mean the difference between 2 or 3 shots. In my case, that could mean 46 over instead of 48 over.

Walking a couple of miles 4 days a week, in my opinion, is a big part of what makes golf a sport. And a challenging one at that. What’s not a sport is being hauled around in a mini Pope-mobile from shot to shot.

Why punish the PGA for instilling rules they think make the tour fair and equal? And what other sports will now fall victim to this gross misuse of political correctness?

Will the Olympic committee be forced to give “little people” pogo sticks so they can participate in the hurdles?

Maybe we should allow wheelchair basketball players into the NBA. Or maybe bicycles in the Boston Marathon. How about prosthetic titanium arms in the NFL? It’s a slippery slope, and a dangerous one at that.

I am a big fan of equality of opportunity, but let’s face it, not everyone is equal, and in sports, not everyone is supposed to be equal. If that was the case, you’d have 5-foot-9-inch bean poles like me in the NBA.

I’m a pro golf fan, and this ruling isn’t fair to me. This is the real world; some people don’t get to be the big pro athlete superstars. Most, like me, just suck. Others, like Martin, have disabilities that prevent them from getting to that pinnacle. Either way, you’re not supposed to be there.

The game of golf may be changed forever, and now the government is involved. That’s a tragedy in itself.

But the real tragedy would be if professional sports is ever taken off of that plateau and brought down to a place where people like me have a shot at making it big. Because then, even I wouldn’t watch.

Tim Paluch is a junior in journalism and mass communications from Orland Park, Ill.