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Rookie buggin' bosses.

If you haven't heard of rookie pro Casey Martin by now, you will soon.

The former college team-mate of Tiger Woods is bidding to change the course of golfing history - and he's making huge headlines coast to coast in America.

Martin, you see, has a congenital disability. He has a withered right leg which literally makes it impossible for him to follow in the footsteps of his famous pal.

He can hit all the shots but he needs a buggy to ride around the course. And that's where the case for Martin gets complicated.

A legal trial began in Eugene, Oregon on Monday with 25-year-old Martin taking on the role as champion of the disabled.

He is challenging the all-powerful US PGA Tour's rule which forbids the use of buggies.

And the issue has divided the nation - as well as some of the biggest names in the sport. But more of that later.

The fact is that Martin's story is the stuff of fairytales.

He attempted to win his card at the Qualifying School, riding between shots in a buggy after winning a court injunction.

He missed by two shots. Too bad. But, undaunted, he set out on the Nike Tour - with court order in back pocket - and triumphed over the odds by winning the first event, the Lakeland Classic last month.

Now things get murky. The US Tour claim that walking is an integral part of competition and won't permit a relaxation of the no buggies rule.

Martin argues that the disabled are being discriminated against.

If he can't hitch a lift his career is over because of his incurable Klippel Trenaunay Weber Syndrome.

He said: "I don't see myself as carrying a banner for the disabled. I just want to compete."

Martin has hobbled since birth, his leg is wrecked and he's in constant pain. In the circumstances, his debut victory was uplifting.

However, on the Saturday of that rain-hit event Martin played 25 holes with a buggy while 45- year-old Gary Koch - who was in contention - completed 32 without one.

Koch faded out of contention and admitted "every bone in my body ached". Martin won feeling as fresh as paint.

So there lies the dilemma. Is the cart an advantage?

Now the issue has split the pro ranks. Greg Norman supports Martin and says: "I don't like carts because I get stiff. I would like to see Casey out there."

Jack Nicklaus takes the opposite view. He said: "Everyone has compassion for Casey but it's not part of the game. If I rode in a buggy I'd be more competitive."

So who's right and who's wrong. Should the rules be re-framed or should a young man be denied the fundamental right to earn his livelihood?

Sorry, Martin, but I agree with the great Bobby Jones, who said that fatigue, and loss of concentration caused by fatigue, can affect a player's ability to execute shots.

The use of motorised transport DOES give an individual an advantage over the rest of the field.

If you have a limp, you might be able to pass the ball but you can't play football.

It might be sad but it's a fact. The rules have to be framed so as to be fair to all.

There must be a degree of athletic skill to sort out the winners from the losers.

America is a politically correct country and the shrewd judges think Martin will win.

If he succeeds, does that mean anybody with a sore big toe will be able to demand a cart?

This one is going to run and run.

EVER wondered how it feels to be blind or partially sighted and still enjoy golf?

I once acted as a guide for members of the Blind Golf Society at Cawder and found it a humbling and uplifting experience.

Now sighted members of Clober Golf Club in Milngavie are about to find out for themselves.

Pro Alan Tait and his sponsor, Optical Express, are staging a Night Golf Challenge on March 2 in aid of Fight for Sight.

The nine-hole event will tee off in darkness at 8pm, using luminous balls and flagsticks.

Tait said: "Hopefully it will raise a four-figure sum for the charity."

WILL 1998 be the year of Andrew Coltart? The evidence says it might well be.

The Scottish Dunhill Cup player finished 15th in the Heineken Classic in Perth to top the Australian Order of Merit with pounds 123,556.

This week he moves to Sydney to try to add Greg Norman's Holden Classic to the Australian PGA title he won at the end of last year.

Now Coltart is aiming to finish No.1 at the end of the Aussie season. That would probably earn him an invite to the US Open and US PGA.

Surely that first European title isn't far away either.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Simpson, Gordon
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 4, 1998
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