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Casey Martin Earns Tour Card

Considering everything Casey Martin has already had to deal with, a disabling disease in his leg and a lengthy court battle with the PGA Tour, a two-hour wait was nothing.

Martin, needing to play well enough in the final Nike event of the season to place in the top 15 of the money list and earn his PGA card, just made it. A 37th-place finish Sunday dropped him from 12th in the money standings to 14th still good enough for his card.

"If I play like I did here, I won't be a very good PGA player," Martin joked. "I'm relieved and grateful. I admit that I'm a little bit shocked to have done it, but it feels really good."

Martin's status was in jeopardy after a poor performance Sunday on the back nine at Highland Oaks sent him into the clubhouse tied for 37th.

All he could do at that point was wait to see how the tournament would play out. Watching on television with his mother, Melinda, Martin stayed clam through the two-hour wait.

"Really, he was at peace," Melinda Martin said, fighting off tears. "With all the adversity he's been through in his life, he could handle the wait."

It wasn't until the television announcer said Martin was guaranteed to make the top 15 that the 27-year-old golfer gave his mother a wink the only emotion he showed.

"It might not have been as dramatic as you would have liked, but I'm so exhausted it's hard to show any emotion right now," Martin said. "I tried to stay straight-faced. I didn't want to break down, I've had a tendency to do so and I'm trying not to."

Martin's achievement overshadowed the victory of Bob Heintz, who beat Marco Dawson in a one-hole playoff to win the Nike Tour Championship, as well as the 14 other golfers who also earned their tour cards.

Martin, who shot a 6-over 78 in the final round, then had to wait through the playoff to accept his award. As he quietly waited, his parents did all the celebrating for him.

His father, King, so nervous during the two-hour wait he went and sat by himself in the car, said it was a fitting way for Martin to earn his tour card.

"He sort of limped in, didn't he?" King Martin said. "The fact that he got there the hard way was kind of indicative of his life."

Born with a rare circulatory disorder in his right leg, walking 18 holes is too painful for Martin. He needs to ride in a cart, which is prohibited on the PGA Tour, so Martin sued for the right to use it.

He won his case, but the tour appealed. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court could rule any day on the appeal.

At the heart of the opposition for Martin to use the cart is PGA Commssioner Tim Finchem, who presented Martin with his tour card on Sunday. As he gave Martin his card, he shook the golfer's hand, then patted him on the back.

The stone-faced Martin then took his place in line and flipped his card over in his hand, examining both sides.

"Right now, we're just pleased and excited for Casey," Finchem said afterwards. "We have a great deal of admiration for what he's done, first with his physical disability and then with all the distractions."

Finchem refused to discuss what the kind of PGA future Martin might have.

"Right now the matter is with the courts and whatever it does it does," Finchem said. "There is no point in speculating because it all might be academic."

Nervous from the start of the final round until the end, Martin did his best to keep control of his emotions and failed only once, tossing his club onto his bag and walking off in disgust after making a bogey on No. 3.

But he recovered to birdie the next hole one of only three birdies on the day and closed the front nine with another birdie to make the turn at even par for the day.

Casey Martin's PGA Tour card for the 2000 season.
But he started to feel the pressure on the back nine and ultimately crumbled under it.

He opened the back nine with three straight bogeys, missing short putts on all of them. After a par on No. 13, he had another bogey and then took a double bogey when his chip shot went into the sand on No. 15, dropping him to 10 over.

"I felt pretty good on the front nine, but on the back nine I just ran out of gas," he said. "It was a humbling round."

Despite a birdie on the par-5 16th, Martin finished with yet another bogey for the 78 that left him at 11-over 299, tied for 37th.

"It was a very stressful week, very nerve-wracking," he said. "I would have liked to have taken care of it on my own, but I'll just have to wait it out."

Martin then headed to the clubhouse to eat with his parents, who made the trip from Oregon, and watch how the final money list unfolded.

Now, even with the card, Martin's future on the tour isn't guaranteed. If the court rules against him, he'll have another uphill battle to fight.

"I'll be disappointed if it's taken away from me," he said. "But right now, I don't even want to think about it. It's out of my hands."

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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