Mark Rolfing and Jimmy Roberts were there, beaming with broad smiles.
It was a moment no fan of our game would miss.
The final pairing of eventual champion Jesper Parnevik and Mark Calcavecchia had not even started its round. No, the roar at the 72nd hole was aimed neither at the Honda Classic victor nor any other star of the PGA Tour. This outpouring of love, support and respect from 5,000 fans was reserved for the star of the week, 16-year-old high school sophomore Ty Tryon.
There was Tom Lehman, a major championship winner, one of the sport's best, stopping on the fringe to join in on the applause. After playing the Honda's final 18 with young Ty, the 41-year-old Lehman would say, 'I'm so impressed.' Weren't we all?
Honda Classics come and go. But this one will be remembered for a long time. The player who made this event so special is barely old enough to drive one of the title sponsor's products.
Last Monday Tryon battled a howling South Florida wind and some 400 tour `wannabes' who were vying for just four open spots in the Honda field. A two-under par 70 put the kid from Lake Highland Prep in Orlando into a PGA tour event and the spotlight. He handled both beautifully.
As Parnevik built a three-stroke, three-round lead with a 54-hole record at the Honda, one caddie joked 'he's on Planet Jesper.' So from what planet does Ty Tryon hail?
The young man has the kind of poise many of us so-called adults can only hope to possess. When he fielded his first interview of the week Wednesday afternoon at the practice range with yours truly, Ty handled the situation like a seasoned veteran. 'Do I look at you or the camera when I talk?'
Are you kidding me?
His mother Georgia was much more nervous when I approached her. My God, I was more nervous.
In the first round Thursday, Ty fired a five-under par 67. At holes 9 and 18, where the largest crowds congregate, he birdied both. The ensuing roars were tingling. The kid sure has a flair for the dramatic.
On Friday, Ty was back at it. Pretending he was out at the TPC at Heron Bay for just another round of golf. The kid got it to nine-under through 13 holes. He was just two shots off the lead. That's right ladies and gentlemen, two shots off the lead!
The largest crowds of the tournament followed him all around the course. NBC's cameras followed his every shot. A 16-year-old, playing in his first PGA Tour event, with a camera crew standing directly behind him on every shot, knowing he's on national television, plays flawless golf for 31 holes and is TWO SHOTS OFF THE LEAD.
'Oh, I wasn't nervous,' Ty told this bewildered reporter. 'I didn't really notice the cameras.' Talk about focused. Where's that planet again?
Tryon did stumble on his final five holes Friday. He hit an 8-iron about 185 yards over the green on the par-3 5th hole (his 14th) and made double bogey.
Wait a second. Did I get that right? An 8-iron 185. 'It was down-wind.'
By the way, Ty weighs about 135 pounds. Again, this begs the planet question.
Tryon would slip back to four-under for the tournament. Still, that was good enough for the teenager to become the second youngest player to ever make a cut in a PGA Tour event. After signing his historic card, Ty was back on live, national TV. It was time for an interview with Rolfing. Mark was smiling more than the kid. Then it was my turn. 'Is this live, too, or is it just tape?' Ty asked me. I worked in Los Angeles for several years, interviewing scores of Hollywood types. Not half of them had the media-savvy of this young man.
On Saturday, Ty fired a two-under 70. But on a day when most everyone else was going really low, the kid went virtually unnoticed. Ho-hum. He only shot 70. Hey, wait a second here folks. A 16-YEAR-OLD SHOT 70 ON THE PGA TOUR. ON SATURDAY!!! Virtually no one bothered to interview Tryon. I know we media folk are jaded, but this was ridiculous.
For the week, Ty averaged 290 yards off the tee. He made 21 birdies, just one fewer than the champion Parnevik. 'I know I've got to learn to make fewer mistakes.' Planet?
On Sunday, the crowds, reporters and cameras were back. Everyone realized how special this week was. How special this 16-year-old is. Not just for his talent and his game, but also for his wonderful attitude and engaging, unassuming personality. So when Ty fired at an impossible pin on that 18th hole (something only a teenager would do) and his ball bounded toward the adjacent hazard, there was a groan of immense dispair. No, not from Ty, from the thousands of grown-ups who were watching.
The kid hit a brilliant pitch from the mud to about 12 feet from the hole. Of course, he drained the putt. 16-years old, ten-under par. Not a bad week off from school.
Next year at the Honda, there will be no Monday qualifying for Ty Tryon. The folks who run this event know a good thing when they see it. They have granted Ty a sponsor's exemption into the tournament.
Centuries ago, when Ponce de Leon came to Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth, he should have stopped at Heron Bay.
What do you think of 16 year-old Ty Tryon's Honda Classic performance?
Share your thoughts!
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18