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Byline: Bob Rodman The Register-Guard

Until he sued the PGA Tour in 1997, much of Casey Martin's claim to fame was being a golf teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford.

Martin always, it seems, has been a hero to his hometown.

A graduate of South Eugene High, he was a member of Stanford's national championship team in 1994, a three-time all-American for the Cardinal, owner of a degree in economics from the prestigious institution and was a card-carrying member of the PGA Tour by 2000.

"In professional golf," said Martin, often smiling but always driven, "you want to be known as a great player. I did not leave that mark, but I certainly had somewhat of a significant career based on my leg and all."

Rolling rapidly toward his 35th birthday and one year into his career as men's golf coach at Oregon, Martin is easily recognized for his court battle with the Tour over the right to use a golf cart in competition under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

He suffers from a birth defect in his left leg - Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, a congenital circulatory disorder.

In 2001, the lawsuit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Martin won. The landmark case made him Time magazine's person of the week. Nike founded the Casey Martin Award that year, annually honoring a disabled athlete.

"My hope is that people are proud of the way I handled myself through a lot of the circus that was my life for a number of years," Martin said.

The struggles in court were matched by similar challenges on the course. He lost his PGA Tour card after the 2000 season and joined the Nike/Nationwide tours - a venture that ended with his playing in just five events in 2006 while he was a volunteer assistant coach for the Ducks.

One door was closing, but another was opening.

Steve Nosler, the UO golf coach since 1993, opted to step down. Martin was "a very popular choice," Nosler said, to take over the Ducks' program.

Martin's debut season has been one of feast or famine - win or finish way back.

But the rookie coach has helped steer Oregon to two regular-season tournament victories, Derek Sipe to a UO-record low round of 62 and the Ducks to the NCAA West Regional at Tempe, Ariz., a 54-hole, three-day event involving 27 teams and six individuals in pursuit of the NCAA championships May 30-June 2.

"It's been a challenge for me," Martin said. "Before, I had only to worry about me and my caddy. Now, I'm trying to balance 12 personalities with mine. It's tough knowing when to be hard on one kid and soft on another."

Nosler has remained on Oregon's staff as assistant head coach. He said the adjustments Martin has had to make have been "ongoing, but he has taken to (the job) beautifully."

Martin has done his best to impose his work ethic on the Ducks. He also has devoted much of his time to the future, an endeavor called recruiting.

"One fear I had when I took the job," Martin said, "is that I would be bound to my office. It didn't happen. I'm there in the mornings, on the course in the afternoons."

When he's not recruiting, a task he is learning quickly.

"Love it," he said. "It's a big part of my job. I can't take a kid who is not very good and make him good in four years. It's not enough time, and I might not know how to do it, anyway."

His goal for Oregon, Martin said, "is to compete for championships. If you can do that in the Pac-10 Conference, you can compete with anyone in the nation. My goal is to recruit the kind of golfer who can enable us to do that without my being a miracle worker."

His name is an attraction.

"I try to maximize that," Martin said. "Time will tell if it really works, but I'm not trying to recruit based on my having had a pro career. I try to build relationships. A lot of kids may not know my whole story, but I think a lot of their families do."

Nosler agreed.

"There's not another (college) golf coach in the U.S. who has more of a household name than Casey," Nosler said. "He went through a lot that was publicized, and he had a lot of success playing, too."

Much of Martin's influence on his current flock is a direct result of his name.

"He certainly has helped me when it comes to being on a bigger stage," said Sipe, a junior. "He's been there, knows what it is like and how to deal with the feelings."

Joey Benedetti, another UO junior, said Martin has fashioned "a more structured" environment for the Ducks. "We practice more, play more, do conditioning in the mornings. He knows what will make us better. It's called hard work."

The Ducks' season has been an inconsistent one - wins at the Northwest Collegiate and ASU Thunderbird, ninth at the season-opening Husky Invitational last fall and eighth at the Pac-10 tournament last month.

"We had some highs," Martin said. "I knew we had some talent," including the five - Sipe, Benedetti, Matt Ma, Zeke Reyes and Ted Whitney - who will carry 20th-seeded Oregon's hopes for success at the Tempe regional, which begins Thursday.

"These guys just had not taken golf as serious as they needed to get to the elite level."

The inconsistency tested Martin.

"I'm a fun-loving guy most of the time," he said, "but there are times when I get ticked off, and can be demanding and brutally honest. I'd love to be fun-loving the entire time. Just give me that option."

The Ducks are getting the message.

"The No. 1 thing he has instilled in us is that it will not come easy," Sipe said. "It comes from hard work, and that is the biggest thing we have taken from him."

Benedetti said Martin threw the challenge at the UO players from the get-go.

"In the beginning, he said we should get two or three wins this season, and we got a couple," Benedetti said. "But he's still challenging us."

Just as Martin did himself. And still does.

"I'd love to look back in 20 years and see an Oregon golf program that is an elite program," Martin said. "With coach Nosler, we can make this thing great. But it's a huge challenge, and it gets me up in the morning."
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Title Annotation:Sports; Casey Martin's work ethic carries over to the Ducks' men's golf team in his first year as head coach
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 16, 2007
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