Child's Play Tyke tales we're likely to hear in golf's brave newbie world

May 26, 2002

Ty Tryon gets carded next week. On June 2, his 18th birthday,
young Tryon gets full use of his Tour card. After months of
relying on sponsors' exemptions because he was underage, he can
finally exercise the playing privileges he earned at Q school.

Too bad he can't exercise. Ty is laid up for a month or so with
mononucleosis, the strength-sapping disease that strikes
thousands of teens every year. Coming down with mono was a tough
break for a guy who had fought another childhood disease, strep
throat, during Q school, and his medical report gets worse: Once
Ty recovers from mono, he'll need to have his tonsils taken out.

Back in 1996, when Tiger Woods turned professional at age 20,
young pros had to deal with mishits and the media. Now it's zits
and orthodontia. When Aree Wongluekiet was asked when she would
turn pro, she said, "After I get my braces off." At 16 she's
three years older than Morgan Pressel, another phenom with a
titanium smile. Mina Harigae and Sydney Burlison (SI, May 13),
who finished one-two at the California Amateur, are only 12;
ditto Michelle Wie, who last week played in her second LPGA event
this year. At least the preteens have their priorities straight:
First they'll go out and hit balls, then they'll go out and hit
puberty.

What's going on in Mr. Woods's neighborhood? Nothing that hasn't
already happened in tennis, another sport in which talent,
training and drive forge champions who still watch Nickelodeon.
Tennis champs are pint-sized obsessives who eat right, work out
and consult sports psychologists. Woods was the first golfer to
be so precocious (he once explained an injury by saying, "I'm
still growing into my body"), and Ty Tryon is his avatar. Ty,
who'll be movie-star handsome once his acne clears up, was never
a junior star because he was a shrimp--it took a teen growth spurt
before he grew into the swing he had spent years developing,
which he unleashed last year when he shot up to 5'11" and started
hitting balls 320 yards.

Suddenly Ty had Tiger power. But with great power comes great
vulnerability--not to muscle pulls or arthritis but to childhood
maladies the Tour has never seen. Tryon is only the first of a
new breed of golfers, and in this brave newbie world, kiddie
diseases will matter more than ever. It may have been prophecy,
not malaprop, when Sergio Garcia, 22, said of a round with Arnold
Palmer, "Listening to the ovation they gave him, I was getting,
what do you call it, chicken pox."

Here's another prophecy: Tryon's tonsils are a warning sign,
swollen harbingers of a future full of tyke tales like these.

SACRAMENTO, Sept. 2, 2002--For Natalie Gulbis, navel and nostril
piercings sounded novel. Then they got infected. "Now I'll miss
the Safeway Classic," said a dejected and grossed-out Gulbis,
adding that her father will ground her for, like, ever.

SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ., Jan. 20, 2003--Tigger Thomas is a phenom who
won't crack under pressure. But his voice will.

ORLANDO, April 1, 2005--Talk about your water hazard. Nights at
the Leadbetter Academy seem endless for the boy all the bigger
golfers laugh at. The Leadbetter bed wetter, they call him.

SUVA, FIJI, June 19, 2010--A match-play playdate erupted in shouts
and kicking today when Rahul Singh, 5, took his ball and went
home. "He cheated!" said another boy. "Did not," Rahul said.
Young Singh invited reporters to kiss his boo-boo.

TROON, SCOTLAND, March 4, 2016--Colin Montgomerie Jr. won't be
playing in the U.S. "Little Colin is colicky," his mother
announced.

ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND, July 20, 2017--It started with bubble-gum
cigars. It ended when 12-year-old Jimmy Daly was found smoking
cigarettes under Swilcan Burn Bridge. His father, John, had only
three words for the boy: "Got a light?"

AUGUSTA, Dec. 10, 2021--Calling girls "yukky," Charles Howell IV
announced he would skip the Three-Tour Challenge.

PALM SPRINGS, CALIF., Jan. 20, 2022--They're tough. They're
teething. They're golf's Young Gums.

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 10, 2025--President Jenna Bush and Tiger
Woods announced a program to promote golf and toilet training.
"First Tee Tee is all about control, from your putter to your
bladder," said Woods.

Juvenile? Yes. Sophomoric? Not even. As golf gets younger, we
keep getting closer to the day when players peak at 18 and are
over the hill at 20.

It's enough to make a golfer want his nanny.

COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL KID STUFF Tryon turns 18 next week but can't play until he recovers from mono and has his tonsils removed.

Nights at the Leadbetter Academy seem endless for the boy the
bigger golfers laugh at. The Leadbetter bed wetter, they call him.

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)