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Mighty Casey has struck a chord.

Byline: Adam Jude The Register-Guard

Casey Martin was never more nervous than during his first and, until next week, only appearance at a major golf championship.

He handled the jitters well enough for that one wonderful, whirlwind week during the 1998 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in San Francisco. Fourteen years later, he expects those emotions to come flooding back when he steps up to the first tee at the 112th U.S. Open at Olympic.

"I just hope I don't shoot a million," the Oregon golf coach joked.

A one-in-a-million shot to get back to the U.S. Open - or so it seemed - Martin beat the darkness and a field of 37 on Monday night to win the 36-hole sectional qualifier at Emerald Valley Golf Club.

A day later, the golf world was abuzz at his victory, which came almost six years after he retired from competitive golf. "Out of the rough: Casey Martin is back," read one headline. "Disabled golfer Casey Martin earns a spot in U.S. Open," read another.

Even Tiger Woods, Martin's former Stanford teammate, was impressed.

"Just incredible," Woods said Tuesday on Twitter, to his 2.25 million followers. "Ability, attitude and guts. See you at Olympic, Casey."

Martin has to get there first.

The 40-year-old South Eugene High School product said he spent Tuesday fielding "an unbelievable amount of interview requests" while working through the logistics of registering for and getting to the U.S. Open. He plans to leave for San Francisco on Sunday, but he wasn't sure if he would fly or make the 530-mile drive with UO assistant coach Brad Lanning, who will serve as Martin's caddie.

"It's been a hectic few hours," Martin told The Register-Guard on Tuesday afternoon, from his office in the UO athletic department. "I'm just trying to take care of all the odds and ends."

After those 36 grueling holes over almost 12 hours, broken up by a two-hour rain delay, Martin's brother - former UO golfer Cameron Martin - threw his brother an impromptu party late Monday. So much for rest.

"A lot of my buddies came over to my place last night," Martin said. "It was a lot of fun."

A day after his first 36-hole day since 2000, Martin said his right leg was sore Tuesday, as he expected it would be.

"But not bad," said Martin, who was born with a congenital circulatory disorder in his leg, called Klippel-Trenaunay-Webber Syndrome.

"I've got a lot of adrenaline going through my body right now, and that's getting me through. It's just a magical time. I've gotten hundreds and hundreds of e-mails and text messages, and I'm trying to get back to as many of them as I can."

Martin's return will be one of most compelling national storylines at the U.S. Open. When he made his Open debut in 1998 in San Francisco, he was in the middle of the controversial battle with the PGA Tour that divided the golf community over his use of a golf cart during tour events. By 2001, the legal case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor.

He doesn't expect his use of a cart to be as controversial as it was in '98.

"I don't think so," he said. "That's already kind of been there, done that. If there is, there is. I think there is going to be a lot of attention, but not controversy."

Martin said he would like to play a practice round early next week with Woods and his pal Ben Crane, the former Oregon standout and PGA Tour veteran.

Martin said he hadn't heard directly from Woods, but Stanford coach Conrad Ray was helping them connect.

"He likes to play early and he has an entourage, so it might be hard," Martin said of Woods. "But in '98 when we played, I took him for 40 bucks in a practice round, so I'll let him know that and maybe we can play again."

Broadcaster Jimmy Roberts of NBC Sports and a camera crew followed Martin around for much of the day Tuesday, in an interview arrangement made before Martin qualified for the Open again.

The idea was for NBC to revisit Martin's 1998 run at the Olympic, when he was in contention for a bit before finishing in a tie for 23rd.

Now, that story - and Martin's story, period - has a refreshing and rewarding new angle.
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Title Annotation:Golf; The Oregon coach's return to the U.S. Open after 14 years reverberates throughout the golf community
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Jun 6, 2012
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