June 2, 2010

By Bucky Dent
Special to NCAA.com

Golf isn't a rah-rah sport and Casey Martin isn't a rah-rah guy.

But the Oregon coach, in his understated manner, was dipping into his psychological bag of tricks Wednesday after his Ducks struggled through the second round of the NCAA Championships.

"I shot an 80 one year in the first round of the NCAAs," he told his team, sitting on a golf cart under a scoreboard. "We came back the next day, I shot a 68 and we won the team title.

"I know we didn't play well, but there's still plenty of golf left to play. We can do this."

If Oregon needs reason to believe it can bounce back from a 6-over par effort that left it in 10th place before a weather delay interrupted the round's conclusion, all it has to do is look at its coach. Play was re-started at 5 p.m.

After all, Martin has made a life of overcoming adversity -- caused by rotten genetics -- to live and achieve in a fashion many able-bodied people can't or won't.

Born with Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, a condition in which blood vessels and lymph vessels failed to properly form in his right leg, Martin still forged a good playing career.

After helping Stanford win the 1994 NCAA title, he turned pro following a 1995 season during which he teamed up with a freshman named Tiger Woods.

Winner of one Nike Tour (now the Nationwide Tour) event in 1998, Martin also briefly contended for the U.S. Open title that year before settling for a 23rd-place tie.

Martin earned his PGA Tour card in 2000 but finished just 179th in total earnings, then failed to earn a 2001 card in the final stage of Qualifying School.

Following a Supreme Court victory over the PGA in 2001 that allowed him to use a cart during his rounds, Martin stayed on the Nike Tour through 2003 before falling to part-time status.

In 2006, Martin began to consider a new way to stay in the game he loved. His avenue: Serving as a volunteer assistant at Oregon under 14-year coach Steve Nosler.

"I've always been passionate about the game," Martin said. "I grew up (in Oregon) and this opportunity presented itself and I jumped at it."

Shortly after season's end, Martin jumped on a bigger opportunity. He and Nosler swapped titles, giving Martin the keys to one of college golf's most tradition-rich programs.

As Martin quickly learned -- and rediscovered Wednesday in one back-nine stretch where the Ducks made eight double bogeys, five of which eventually counted -- coaching comes with its own unique set of pitfalls.

"When things are going bad, I want to do something to help," he said. "And it's hard. You kind of have your hands tied a little bit. You hope and pray they can weather it and hang on."

The year's accomplishments -- five tournament victories, including last month's NCAA Regional title in San Diego -- would offer proof that Oregon can shrug off their rough day and reach match play on Friday.

Their low-key coach wasn't pressing the panic button as he talked with the media.

"I told them that in a six-day tournament, you're going to have a bad stretch and that was ours," he said. "We just played horrible for about eight holes.

"It's going to happen to every team that you hit a bumpy point. Hopefully, we can survive it with a good round tomorrow."

If so, it just might be another case where a man who's defeated adversity all his life helps his team score a win over it.   

The second round, which was delayed by rain, was halted at 8:45 p.m. with Florida State (562 strokes) leading. Oklahoma State (567) was in second place, and both teams completed their rounds. The second round is scheduled to be completed beginning at 7 a.m. on Thursday and the third round is expected to begin at 9 a.m.

Oregon (578), which also completed its round, was tied for ninth with Arizona State.

The University of San Diego's Alex Ching and Virginia's Henry Smart tied the course record by shooting 66s. Ching is the individual leader.