Ty risks youth for a shot at pros
By: KEVIN BERCHOU
Ty Tryon won't be competing in the Byron Nelson Classic this May. He was forced to turn down an invitation from one the game of golf's most revered legends because he has "other obligations." Tryon, a 17-year-old high school junior won't play that weekend because he wants to attend the prom.
Now every high school kid wants to go to the prom. Tryon can't be blamed for that. What Tryon can be blamed for is his much-debated decision to join the PGA Tour at an age where he's just old enough to drive, and just young enough to still have a stubborn acne problem.
However, ability is not the issue. Tryon's game is beyond his scant few years. At the pressure-packed crucible that is the six-round PGA Tour Qualifying School, Tryon shot a dazzling 66 to capture a Tour card and the exempt status that comes with it. He's armed with 300-yard drives, a reliable putter, and well over $1 million in endorsement contracts from the likes of Calloway and Target.
Tyron, however, paid dearly for his bounty; he sacrificed his youth, and no matter how many titles he wins, he'll never be able to get that back.
Tryon did more than miss the cut in his professional debut earlier this month at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He missed the point. Golf is not about how good you are now; it's much more about how good you can be.
Every golfer on the planet, from Tiger Woods to the hacker in the stall next to you at the driving range, believes he can get better, that his best swings lie ahead. Jack Nicklaus won his sixth Masters at the age of 46.
You can play great golf for a long time and history has shown us that most players don't peak until they turn 30. Ben Hogan didn't win the first of his plethora of majors until he was 35. So why is Tryon in such a hurry?
That same Tiger guy was a pretty decent 17-year-old just nine years ago, but he didn't join the tour until he was 20. Instead Tiger honed his game against stern competition at the amateur level, winning three consecutive amateur crowns as well as an NCAA Championship as a member of the Stanford Cardinal. Woods, though he may have been able to compete at 17, recognized the immaturity of his game, and as he worked on it embraced his youth and went to college.
Tryon apparently knows better than guys like Tiger, though he's won almost nothing of importance in the junior ranks. He'll never get to go an SYR or sit in a dorm room with his buddies sipping a lukewarm Natty Light.
For Tryon, 40s at four won't be a cause for Friday celebration, but rather a bad number on the back nine in the second round. He's made the quantum leap from precocious teenager to full-fledged adulthood, and there's no crossing back. Guys on the tour play for keeps and for their livelihoods.
These guys are fathers, playing to send their kids to college. Tryon is playing to avoid it. While Tryon calls his girlfriend, the other members are calling their investment gurus. How's a high school kid going to fit in with those guys? What do they talk about to bridge the age gap? He's Britney Spears and they're Barbara Streisand.
In order to retain his tour membership, Tryon must finish in the top 125 on this year's money list. If he doesn't, he'll have to re-enroll in Q-School, where the odds of qualifying for a second consecutive year are about as good as my chances of competing in this April's Masters.
If Tryon falls flat on his face this year, and many think he will, there is no safety net. By playing in just one event as a professional, Tryon would forever forfeit his amateur status , eliminating his ability to play college golf. His time is now, and unless he plays with the big guys, he may not have a later.
Contact Kevin Berchou at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views of this column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Sports Stories for Thursday, February 21, 2002