For Martin On to Dream No 2

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Casey Martin wasn't so concerned whether he walked or rode down the next path in his life -- just so he got on it.
 
Martin, who is remembered as much for suing the PGA TOUR in 1997 for the right to use a golf cart in competition as for his powerful game, has been named to succeed Steve Nosler as coach of the University of Oregon's men's golf team.
 
Casey Martin
Casey Martin will help his Oregon players both on and off the course.
Martin, 33, grew up in Eugene, close to the Oregon campus. Coaching the team is something of a dream come true for Martin -- he has known Nosler for many years and practiced frequently with the team -- but it wasn't the first dream.
 
Long before he was a stand-out at Stanford, where he played with Tiger Woods and Notah Begay, Martin wanted to play on the PGA TOUR. He persevered through Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, a rare condition that interrupts the circulation from his leg back to his heart. That makes any kind of walking excruciating, especially 18 holes over varied terrain in the heat of competition.
 
Martin prevailed in his suit against the TOUR at trial in federal court in Eugene. The result survived appeals all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States, which decided in his favor in May 2001.
 
Martin played well enough on the Nationwide Tour in 1999 to win promotion to the PGA TOUR in 2000. But he couldn't keep his card. Successive trips to PGA TOUR Qualifying School followed. After coming up short in the 2005 tournament, Martin said he would likely leave competition.
 
Even in his mid-20s, when he was beginning his fight with the TOUR, Martin knew that his medical condition might drive him away from a playing career. But did he ever think of coaching as an alternative?
 
'Not really,' Martin said by phone from his home in Eugene. 'In those days, I was focused on golf. I thought if it didn't work out, I'd use my [economics] degree and take it from there.
 
'But the more I played golf, the more I wanted to stay in it. So coaching the Ducks is a perfect fit.'
 
But even though he is pleased with his new position, moving on from Dream No. 1 is a tough job.
 
'I'm still dealing with that,' Martin, 'and it's difficult. It's hard to let go, because no one's firing you. You have to cut yourself.'
 
As a man of faith, Martin relied on prayer for guidance in what he sees as a one-door-closing, another-opening situation. Soon, he knew what he wanted to do.
 
'But there was no sign in the sky, no audible voice. I just prayed a lot about it, and I knew coaching was a perfect fit.'
 
And his voice brightens considerably when he discusses his plans for the team. Perhaps no coach is better suited for the uphill climb he faces. Oregon finished last in the Pacific 10 last year. Martin plans to spend the summer on the recruiting trail, while still cultivating existing talent. And he's looking forward to the day-to-day business of coaching once school begins.
 
'I plan to walk with...well, ride with the team a lot,' Martin said. 'I've learned a lot about the golf swing, and I think I can help and be pretty hands-on.
 
'But I don't want to coach too much. You can definitely over-coach golf.'
 
Nosler will remain for a time as an assistant, providing a stable transition for Martin and the Ducks program. Martin knows that his notoriety may open some recruiting doors -- 'or it could close some', he admits -- but in all things related to Ducks golf, he is undeterred.
 
'This is something I've thought about for a long time,' Martin said. 'College and the golf team were a defining time for me, and I want to make a difference in these kids' lives.'
 
By being courageous enough to take the next step, Casey Martin has already started down that path.
 
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