His first round as the youngest card-carrying PGA Tour member
ever was over, and 17-year-old Ty Tryon was in a white GMC Yukon
heading back to his five-star hotel with his father, Bill, and
his agent, Jay Danzi of IMG. Ty's Callaways were in the back,
and his CDs--Linkin Park, Outkast, 311, Tool, 36 Mafia--were in
"It was a dyslexic round," Bill said before the music came on.
"Out in 43, in in 34." As far as anyone knows, Bill is the only
man with a goatee whose son is a Tour player. He's 44, a mortgage
banker at ease with the word karma. The 77 in the opening round
of last week's Phoenix Open, which was won by Chris DiMarco,
could have been a lot worse. Had Ty lost his head or swing or
confidence, he might well have finished 80 plus. He didn't do
that. He started with a gallery of 2,000, but he "scared them
off," he said, with a couple of hooked tee shots, a couple of
pushed approach shots, a skanky chip, the 43. Then he grounded
his size-13 feet, made the turn and played like the pro he is the
rest of the way.
"I wasn't nervous," Ty said, "but you know that feeling when
you're going down a flight of stairs and you miss a step? That's
what I felt like on the first nine." You know the feeling: Your
heart races, your knees buckle, but you grab the handrail and
soon realize everything's O.K.
Everything is O.K. for Ty. He has money in the bank, money coming
in and a Tour card. He has a gorgeous, modern swing with a
flowing follow-through. He has the best coaching money can
buy--two people for the swing, four for the body and one for the
head. He has a cute girlfriend, Lauren Bedford, an Elite model
and a senior at his school, Dr. Phillips High in Orlando. (Lauren
appeared on the cover of Teen magazine's special back-to-school
issue in the fall of 2000.) He has a close family that watched
his every shot last week. He has a probing, inquisitive mind.
"The best thing," Bill said after one of Ty's putts had lipped
out, "is that he is only a junior in high school."
Ty pops in a CD. 311, yes! You know that sound: surfy, vaguely
Middle Eastern, loud. If Bill wasn't digging it, you couldn't
tell. He grew up on Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Dean Smith. He was
a member of the junior varsity basketball team and the
statistician for the varsity at North Carolina. Smith preached
this above all else: Respect yourself, respect others, use your
time well. That's how Bill has coached Ty; that's how Bill and
his wife, Georgia, have raised Ty, as well as his younger sister
and two kid brothers.
The music comes on, and Ty goes into a groove. "Turn that down,"
says Danzi, an old man of 27. He still listens to Hole.
Ty turns down the music without complaint. His life credo is
time-tested: Treat others as you'd like to be treated. At the
Phoenix Open, he obliged virtually every person who asked for his
autograph. He remembers what it was like for him only a year or
two ago when he was on the other side of the ropes, pen in hand.
The Tryons and Danzi arrive at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess,
a sprawling pink palace of a hotel that was a tent in the desert
last week for Fred Couples, Davis Love III and Nick Price, among
other Tour celebrities. College golf teams don't hole up at
places like the Princess, where the Tryons were registered under
the name Chevy Chase. (Ty's real name is William Augustus Tryon
IV. His nickname comes from Ty Webb, the golfing smoothie Chase
plays in Caddyshack.) Ty is skipping over all the 6 a.m. bus
trips and the Red Roof Inn nights and the other bonding moments
of the college golf experience. People ask him, "Aren't you going
to miss out on all that?" Ty responds, "Playing the PGA Tour is
what I want to do. I can do it now, so why shouldn't I?" His
parents are entrepreneurs--years ago, in another lifetime in North
Carolina, they founded a lending company named Mr. Cash--and so is
Ty. He's playing pro golf for a bunch of reasons, and making
money is one of the most important of them.
As he slides out of the front seat of the SUV, Ty sees an
irresistible sight resting at his feet on the parking-lot
cement: a securely wrapped Tootsie Roll Pop, the stick still
virginal white. He picks it up.
"Would you eat it?" he asks Danzi, who twists his lips, joins his
eyebrows into one and shakes his head. He's an old man. He's 27.
Ty asks his father, "Would you eat it?"
"Only if it were chocolate," Bill says, looking at the orange
wrapper. Ty pops the lolly into his mouth. He's 17. He's
Ty's trip to Phoenix from Orlando took four hours by commercial
plane and a decade on the range. He took up golf, in a serious
way, at age seven. He started taking lessons from David
Leadbetter, the Orlando swing guru, at nine. He began playing in
Monday qualifiers for Tour events at 13. The old-dog pros call
the qualifiers four-spotters, 144 or so golfers competing for one
of four spots in that week's tournament. The entry fee is $200 a
pop, and Bill figures it's the best money he has ever spent. For
$200 Ty got a practice round, a competition round and the chance
to play a new course from the tips with a pro. How could he not
learn? Last March, in his 16th four-spotter, playing with
accomplished veteran pro Denis Watson, Ty shot an early-morning
70 in a fierce wind. He went to Georgia's car, crashed for three
hours and woke up to learn that 70 was good enough: He was in the
From there, as every viewer of the Golf Channel knows, it has
been a whirlwind. Ty came in 39th at the Honda. He was 16, a
sophomore in high school, the youngest player to make a cut on
Tour in 44 years. At the B.C. Open in July, he opened with a 65
for a share of the lead and finished 37th. In August he turned
pro. In September the Tour adopted a rule that severely limits
the number of Tour events a player under the age of 18 may play.
The rule was drafted with Ty in mind. Bill thinks it's illogical,
antientrepreneurial and bizarre, but he's not going to fight it.
That's because Ty is still a full-time high school student--albeit
a student who can take advantage of a liberal leave
program--planning on graduating in May 2003. Moreover, come June 2
the new rule will no longer apply to Ty. That's the day he earns
the right to vote and to play as many events as he wants. This
summer he'll be a fixture on Tour, as he'll be next month, when
he'll play three tournaments in a row in Florida on sponsors'
exemptions: Doral, Honda and Bay Hill, his home course.
Ty's last round in December's final stage of the Tour's Q school
will forever be part of his legend. He was sicker than a dog, his
mouth so full of canker sores that he couldn't swallow. He lost
eight pounds in 10 days, which is amazing because there are no
extra pounds on him to lose. He knew he had to go low to be
certain of earning his card. He shot 66, finished 23rd and made
In the months to come Ty's opening six-over 77 at the Phoenix
Open will fade into oblivion. In his mind the Q school 66 already
has a permanent home. Thinking about that round helps him build a
strong mind 12 ways.
The Tryon family has been successful for generations. The first
W.A. Tryon, one of Ty's great-great-grandfathers, invented an
automotive part called the Tryon Shackle Bolt. That invention led
to the formation of an upstate New York manufacturing company
called Trayer Products, Inc., which Ty's grandfather, Pops, runs
today. Pops, who turned 71 last Thursday, won the New York
Amateur in 1962, '65 and '68. He was not a rich kid. His mother
divorced Pops's father (Howard, who in 1950 was voted Elmira,
N.Y.'s golfer of the half-century by the Elmira Star-Gazette)
when Pops was young, and he worked his way through Princeton--he
was a backup tailback on the excellent Tigers football teams of
the early '50s--and through life. "I worked my bottom off to get
through Princeton, and therein lies the story of Ty," says Pops,
who climbed the baked, slick hills of the Stadium Course at the
TPC of Scottsdale last week. "The Tryons are hard workers."
Pops is a member of Pine Valley, the famously penal and
intimidating New Jersey course, but Ty has never been nervous
there, not even on his first trip, when he was 14. "He doesn't
get nervous," Pops said last Thursday. He was wearing a Pine
Valley bucket hat, a Pine Valley watch, a Pine Valley V-necked
sweater with a Callaway polo shirt underneath it, a Christmas
gift from Ty. His gift to Ty was a series of vocabulary-building
tapes. "Ty speaks very well," says Pops, "but in the future
he'll have to speak better and better. You hear how beautifully
Tiger expresses himself. That'll be important for Ty, too." The
family prizes education, and so does Ty. He reads, he knows
where Malta is, he's curious. Right now he's trying to figure
out Hogan, Sergio, Woods, himself. For him, the best place to do
it is right where he is: the PGA Tour.
In the clubhouse last week Ty's new colleagues were impressed
with him. In December some Tour elders were dissing the Tryons'
decision to let Ty turn pro at 17. Last week nobody was. "He's
saying and doing all the right things," said Love, who joined the
Tour in 1986, when Ty was getting out of diapers. "He shot 77 and
didn't blame the weather, didn't start kicking clubs. He carried
himself like a pro." Ty's second round was much better, an
even-par 71, but he missed the cut by seven shots.
Everywhere he went, he made new friends. John Daly was
particularly inviting. "Anytime there's anything I can do for
you, any advice I can give you, you let me know," Daly said. Ty
was moved and impressed.
The tournament assigned Ty a security guard for the week, a
gigantic New Zealander named Paul Ballegooie. In past years he
has worked for Woods in Phoenix, but Tiger took last week off.
"They're very different people," Ballegooie said, comparing his
two charges. "Ty is eager to please people. Tiger's a bit shy,
really. But the thing with these young golfers is how fast they
learn. Has anyone ever learned like Tiger? Probably not. But from
what I see of this boy, he's a damn quick learner. He learned if
you want to get to the driving range, you've got to walk and sign
at the same time. He learned that the first day."
In Thursday's purple desert dusk, while it seemed all of Phoenix
was drinking at the Birds Nest, trying to talk over screaming
guitars, there was a lone golfer on the practice tee, with music
in his head and in his flowing swing. He couldn't have gotten
into the Birds Nest even if he'd wanted to. (He is, of course,
underage.) Anyway, he didn't want to. He was right where he
wanted to be.
for you, any advice I can give you, you let me know."