Can't Ty Him Down

December 17, 2001

From Maine to Maui, parents dropped their spoons into their oat
bran last week when they read the headline HIGH SCHOOL JUNIOR
QUALIFIES FOR PGA TOUR. To my wife, Linda, and me, it was like
reading CARROT TOP ON MARS PROBE.

See, we happen to know a high school junior, our son Kel. Rumor
has it he lives in our house. In fact, that may have been Kel
who just headed off to school with a Pop-Tart trapped in each
armpit, a Pepsi spilling out of one hand, a toothbrush in the
other, hat worn sideways, jeans big enough to lose Charles
Barkley in and shoes with laces that have never been introduced.
It was very difficult to picture him heading off to, say, win
the Masters.

Yet 17-year-old Ty Tryon of Orlando next month will become a
regular on the PGA Tour. To us, it seemed unthinkable, like
naming Britney Spears Federal Reserve chairman. Naturally, we
had to talk to Ty's parents.

But Bill and Georgia Tryon say their high school junior is
pretty much like ours--big mop of hair, standard-issue pimples,
eats more than the Marines, skinny as a two-iron, size 13 boats
and loves Taco Bell, his headphones and girls, in that order.
Like Kel, Ty has gotten tickets, one for speeding and one for
playing his stereo so loud it rattled Gap windows--two malls
over. The folks at the Bob Hope Classic are going to love that.

Like our son, Ty has a girlfriend (except that his is an Elite
agency model), homework (except that his aunt tutors him
wherever he is) and neighbors to annoy (except that his include
'N Sync's Justin Timberlake, two doors down). The big difference
is that Bill's kid drives the ball an average of 309 yards
laser-straight, shot 66 on the final day of Q school to earn his
Tour card and stands to make more money by his 18th birthday
than the gross national product of Uzbekistan.

"I just look at it like a job," says Ty. "A lot of my friends
work at Publix. I'll be working on the Tour." Except that
instead of $6.50 an hour, Ty will make $1 million next year in
endorsements alone. Wait till his buddies hear that. We need a
cleanup on Aisle 11.

You figure, if Ty wins a tournament, he can get, say, Fred
Couples to buy him a six-pack? You think he'll try to burn
courtesy-car rubber down Magnolia Lane? How's he going to play
Tiger in one of those night matches if it runs past Ty's curfew?

Golf better not expect this kid to carry himself like Davis Love
III. If Ty's anything like our son, he'll try to ride one lap
around on the baggage carousel, turn his dirty underwear inside
out and declare it clean, and leave lit bags of dog poop in
front of Nick Faldo's room before knocking and running. Room
service, can you send up that real squiggly kind of Kraft Mac &
Cheese?

How's he going to get his homework done? Please excuse Ty from
school last week. He was in Los Angeles winning the Nissan Open.

Actually, either Bill, a mortgage lender; Georgia, the mother of
four; or Ty's grandfather Bill Sr., an insurance man, will
travel with him at all times. They'll all be yelling at him to
turn off the PlayStation 2 and go to bed, just the way they do
at home. "Ty will get school credit for having a job," says
Georgia. Teacher: Ty, I had to give you a B in golf. Next time,
try to bring your A game.

Still, the Tryons' ears have been scorched for letting Ty turn
pro, even by friends like Tour players John Cook and Scott Hoch.
"I think it's a joke," says Hoch. "I know Ty. It's a terrible
decision."

The Tryons, however, didn't see any other choice. "In my
opinion, it would have bordered on child abuse if we hadn't let
him," says Bill. "That's how badly he wanted to do this--and
he's good enough to do this. Look, he's our son. We're going to
work with him to help him in his chosen career. If that means
not making him play at some charade of a golf college for two
years to make everybody else feel better, so be it."

I asked our Kel if he would ever want to leave high school with
a year and a half left, to live the glamorous and lucrative life
of a touring golf pro. He happened to be eating a turkey,
cheese, bacon, Hershey's syrup and Ruffles BBQ potato chip
sandwich at the time.

"Ngh chnc," he mumbled.

"Because you feel like high school and college are priceless
years you can never have back?" I asked.

"Ngh," he said. "Id nvr wr thos gky glf clths."

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA

If Tryon wins a tournament, can he get, say, Fred Couples to buy
him a six-pack?

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)