GFC Search

 

Casey Martin Matthew Ross and the Future

RSS

I visited with Matthew Ross a few days ago. You remember Matthew; hes the 9-year-old autistic boy from the Tampa, Fla. area who loves golf. Hes been in the local and national media (including The Golf Channel) because the Greater Tampa Junior Golf Association had told Susan Ross, Matthews mother, that he was no longer welcome to play in its tournaments.
 
That was last summer. In a letter to Susan, GTJGA board president Brian Code said that Matthew would not be able to graduate to the 9-to-11 bracket because he was unable to keep his own score. According to Code, Rule of Golf 6-6(d) requires this. (The rule, which can be reviewed at www.usga.org/rules/rule_2000/index.html, actually only says that a player is responsible for the correctness of his score, which presumably means at the end of the round when he signs his card.)
 
There were also allegations of disruptive behavior on the golf course. Matthew allegedly made noise when other players were hitting, and complained when he wanted to hit first, even though it wasnt his turn. Parents of affected kids complained.
 
Conversely, Susan Ross said some overzealous parents descended to name-calling on the course, branding her son a moron and other nasty words. She also said a GTJGA official has followed her and her son in a cart during events and glared at them unceasingly.
 
Since the increase in media attention, the GTJGA has softened its position somewhat. In a July 13 statement on its website (www.gtjga.com), the association said that if Susan Ross actually pays the $30 annual dues for Matthew to join and asks to accompany Matthew as a scorekeeper, it will consider the request, and probably grant it.
 
But Susan Ross, basing her behavior on experience, says she will believe in the GTJGAs conciliation when she sees it. And GTJGA officials have said privately that they expect Matthew will eventually find a home in non-competitive golf events such as the Special Olympics (indeed, Matthew has already competed as a Special Olympian).
 
If youre looking for my personal view on whether Ross belongs in competitive golf, you wont find it here. Yes, this is an opinion column, but my job is a reporter is not to pick a sideline to root from. But there is something important to learn from Matthew Ross, whether he takes another swing at tournament golf or not.
 
Folks, no matter what some golfers may think about the other people playing the game, the post-Casey Martin-Supreme Court world is different. Martins experience energized a lot of people who until lately allowed themselves to be intimidated. Organizations that think Martin was an isolated instance do so at their peril. Legal fees and public relations hang in the balance.
 
So does the games overall image. One thing we dont need is Little League parents. For me, the most disturbing aspect of covering this story was Susan Ross accounts of what other parents ' adults, mind you ' would do in frustration at Matthews disabilities. No more need be said about the kind of example this sets.
 
Much more needs to be said about what could amount to a missed chance for golf. Again, opinions on Martin or autistic juniors aside, more and more disabled people will come to the recreational game. Will the grass roots organizations prove golf to be the meritocracy it is supposed to be by finding a way to accept these new golfers ' or will they confirm non-golf Americas worst suspicions about the games elitist past?
 
I think well find out very soon.