Hometown hero Casey Martin guides Oregon to NCAA glory

Hometown hero Casey Martin guides Oregon to NCAA glory

Men

Hometown hero Casey Martin guides Oregon to NCAA glory

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EUGENE, Ore. – Casey Martin’s great-great-great grandfather was one of the first professors at the University of Oregon. Both sets of Martin’s grandparents were Ducks. It’s where Martin’s parents, King and Melinda, met and where older brother Cameron played college golf.

“The roots are so deep,” said King Martin as he stood behind the boisterous crowd on the 10th green.

King Martin joined Eugene Country Club in 1976, four years after Casey was born. The family home sits four miles from the course. Today, Cameron and Casey live across the street from each other near the 13th hole (tournament No. 4).

“At 5 and 6 years old, Casey and I were on this green,” said Cameron, a few steps away from where Sulman Raza drained a 6-foot birdie putt on the 10th green on the third playoff hole to defeat Texas and clinch Oregon’s first NCAA title.

Casey Martin said it felt like he was in a movie.

Martin comes to Eugene Country Club every day. This is home. It’s here he brought teammates Tiger Woods and Notah Begay in college at Stanford and where he camps out with potential Duck recruits. If he’s not on the range, he’s on the course or playing gin rummy with members in the clubhouse. A picture of young Martin wearing high-top sneakers with velcro straps hangs the clubhouse wall.

And there he was, trying to navigate his golf cart around a horde of fans, many of them lifelong friends from South Eugene High and club members who watched him grow up.

“It had some magic this week,” Martin said of his home away from home.

The limp is significant. Some say it has gotten worse in the past month. Born with a birth defect in his right leg known as Klippel-Trenaunay-Webber Syndrome, a congenital circulatory disorder, Martin gained nationwide notoriety when he won the right to use a golf cart in a legal case with the PGA Tour that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Oregon women’s coach Ria Scott said Martin never complains about the pain. The tournament – eight rounds in all, including the practice round – surely took a toll on Martin, not that he’d show it.

Coaching college golf certainly wasn’t Plan A for Casey Martin. He actually wanted to be a medical surgeon before switching gears to professional golf. Martin, a member of Stanford’s 1994 NCAA Championship team, tied for 23rd at the 1998 U.S. Open and earned his PGA Tour card in 2000.

It was close family friend Steve Nosler who recruited Martin into coaching, asking him to serve as a volunteer assistant coach from 2005-06.

After Nosler retired, Martin was named the ninth head coach in Oregon history. Twice Martin took the Ducks to the semifinals of the NCAA tourney, losing in 2012 to eventual winner Texas. Oregon was ranked No. 1 in the country when Martin won the bid to host the 2016 championship.

Where does winning it all at home rank?

“Oh, it’s got to be the top,” he said.

It’s easy to imagine the kind of wisdom Martin has to offer impressionable young men. Not only from a game development standpoint, but a life one.

“He’s had so many rich experiences and some trials in his life,” said King Martin.

Martin’s older brother choked back tears as he talked about the fairy-tale nature of what transpired on their beloved course.

“He has overcome hurdles that not many have,” Cameron said. “Staking his claim at the Supreme Court. He’s a principled guy, a passionate leader and it shows.

“He just kind of wills things to happen.”

The rowdy party in the Eugene clubhouse extended well into the evening. Martin, who turns 44 on June 2, was already a local hero before guiding the Ducks to a national title on home turf. Martin’s big idea to bring the big dance to Eugene resulted in the first mass green-storming in NCAA history.

“I knew people would show up if we gave them a reason to,” said Martin.

Heck, they might not ever leave.

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