Martin gives his Oregon players advice about Q-School

By John FeinsteinOctober 24, 2012, 8:34 pm

When his players have the chance to take part in PGA Tour Qualifying School each fall, the golf coach at the University of Oregon gives them a little pep talk.

“I tell them to try not to make a big deal of it, to try to treat it as if it’s like any other tournament,” he said. “I remind them they can all play well enough to succeed as long as they don’t freak out.

“The freak out thing is the problem.”

Casey Martin, now in his seventh season as the coach at Oregon, speaks from personal experience on the subject of Q-School. “Q-School is really about mind control,” he said on Tuesday, just before heading out to practice with his team. “You can never completely keep the reality of it out of your mind. You’re playing for your job and your future. Deep down, you know that. But if you can keep yourself convinced that you’re just playing golf and let your talent take over, then you’ve got a chance to succeed.”

Martin may be the best-known player to never get all the way through Q-School. He reached the finals three times. Once he missed qualifying for the Tour by one shot. In 2002, he was comfortably inside what appeared to be the number needed to make the Tour heading to the back nine on the final day and then, to his way of thinking, lost control of his mind.

“I hit two really bad shots, both irons, both yanked left,” he said. “The first was with a 5-iron on a par 3, I think it was the 13th (at the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West) and the second was a dead pull second shot on the next hole. I ended up making double-bogey on both holes and went from inside the number to outside the number and couldn’t recover.

“That one really tore my heart out because I was able to control my mind the way I needed to do for six days and more than 100 holes. Then, just like that, it was gone.”

Martin’s close calls are not the reason for his fame. He’s famous as “the golfer in the cart.” He has battled Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome since birth, a birth defect in his right leg that has made walking difficult his entire life. In1997, after he had gotten through the second stage of Q-School, he remembers telling a PGA Tour rules official that he would need to use a cart during finals.

That was when the trouble began.

“Until that year players had been allowed to use carts at all three stages of Q-School,” Martin remembered. “They had changed it that year so you weren’t allowed to use carts in the finals. I had used a cart at second stage because they were still allowed. When I made it through and I let this guy know I’d need a cart at finals he looked at me as if I had just said the single most outrageous thing anyone had ever said to him in his life.”

The Tour tried to block Martin from using a cart. He went to court and got an injunction that allowed him to use one. Several other players also used carts during those finals. Martin didn’t make the Tour but did make it to what was then the Nike Tour and promptly won his first tournament to start 1998.

His success caused an uproar on Tour, dividing the locker room. Some players insisted they had physical issues that should also allow them to use a cart. Others insisted that walking was a part of the game. Others saw Martin’s side: he had a disability that made him subject to the Americans With Disabilities Act and thus should be allowed to use a cart.

It wasn’t until 2001 that the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in Martin’s favor based on the ADA and allowed him to continue to use a cart. By then, Martin had made it to the PGA Tour in 2000 by finishing 14th on the Nike Tour money list in 1999. He failed to keep his card in 2000 and had to occasionally endure hearing fans yelling, “cheater,” at him.

Through it all his friendly demeanor never changed. Perhaps it was coincidence, but Martin never played as well as he had in the past after the Supreme Court ruled for him. Or perhaps he was just worn out.

“It certainly wasn’t an easy experience,” he said. “There were things said that were hurtful but I also got a lot of support that meant a lot to me. It really came down to a simple thing: I wanted to play golf and I thought I was a pretty good player. But there was no way I could compete if I had to walk 18 holes every day. My body just couldn't take it.”

Anyone who has ever watched Martin play would attest to the truth of that statement. Even as far back as 1998, when he tied for 23rd at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, it was painful to watch him try to walk up hills to greens or climb in and out of bunkers.

That was part of the reason why so many players came around to his side of the argument: once they saw how difficult it was for him to play, even in a cart, they understood this wasn't the same as a sore back. The other reason was Martin: he is impossible not to like – unfailingly friendly and honest and never one to make excuses for what he bluntly calls, “my failures as a golfer.”

He never did become the star he had hoped to become. He played one year on the Tour and was fully exempt on what is now the Tour through 2003. Being back there was especially disappointing after his near-miss at Q-School in 2002. He continued to play Q-School through 2005 but knew by then that his window was closing.

Even while he was preparing for Q-School that year he was talking to Oregon about possibly coaching there. He worked as a volunteer coach in the spring of 2006 before being named head coach that summer.

“It’s been the perfect fit for me,” he said. “I’m in the place where I grew up, I enjoy getting out to work with the kids on the team and I’m not sitting at a desk all day. I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss competing on a regular basis. That’s not something you ever lose.”

Martin still plays on occasion – he qualified for the U.S. Open at Olympic in June and missed the cut by a shot – and admits that playing competitively both exhausts and exhilarates him.

“At this point in my life (he just turned 40) I wouldn't consider trying to play again. Travel like that would be too tough. My leg doesn't do well on long airplane trips and I really was exhausted after the experience at the Open this year,” he said.

He’d like to try to qualify for the U.S. Open at Merion next year. Q-School he can live without. “It’s hard for me to come up with any memories of Q-School that are funny or that fond,” he said. “Mostly I remember the epic fail in ’02. I guess that was like a lot of my career: I was close but not quite where I wanted to be.”

Martin is too tough on himself. Given what he had to overcome physically, emotionally and legally, his accomplishments in golf are remarkable. Years ago, while his case was still in the courts, he often said that he didn't want to be remembered as, “the golfer in the cart.”

“Being honest, when people recognize me or think they do or when my name rings a bell, most of them say, ‘oh yeah, you’re the guy with the cart,’” he said. “I would have liked to have done more but at least I think I can say I did the best that I possibly could.”

He should also be remembered as the guy with a lot of heart and a lot of guts.There was a lot more to Casey Martin than a bad leg and a golf cart.

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McCoy earns medalist honors at Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.