William Augustus Tryon IV ' Ty ' shot 66 on the final day of the Qualifying Tournament to slide in by two strokes. What was unimaginable as little as a month ago now has become believable. He did it, going through three qualifiers, passing every one, and now look whats happened. What ' or who - is going to stop this kid, anyway?
Well, this same things been done before. Fifteen-year-old Bernhard Langer turned pro in Germany back in 1972. But Langer didnt have much choice. He was from a poor family, school wasnt much of an option, and Germany only had a handful of professionals. Even Bernhard didnt get his European Tour card until the age of 19. This Tryon kid made his first cut at a PGA Tour event when he was 16, at the Honda Classic this year. And the PGA Tour is certainly tougher to crack than the European Tour.
Tyron is a junior at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla. I wonder what the reaction has been from his teachers. Three stages of Q-School have cost him nearly three weeks in absences all ready. I cant imagine the faculty being cooperative as he progressed though first one stage and another ' and another. Ty had a book report on To Kill a Mockingbird due shortly after the final stage when he dazzled in the final round. I havent much time to read, Ty confessed, leading to speculation that the book report may slide a little.
If Tryon hits the jackpot on the Tour, of course, the world will little note the book report. That reminds of a conversation I once had with Moses Malone, who leaped right from high school to a million-dollar contract in professional basketball.
Mo, I asked, did you ever receive your high school diploma?
No, he replied. And no one has ever asked for it.
Meaning, of course, that basketball players arent normally asked for diplomas as they are about to enter the professional draft. Neither, for that matter, are golfers who enter the professional Qualifying Tournament. Tryon certainly is bright enough to matriculate from Dr. Phillips ' if he gets enough days in. The nagging question, though, is ' so what? Normally, about the most important thing a kid does is get at least a high school education. With Tryon, that is becoming less and less important.
He already has million-dollar contracts with Callaway Golf and Target Stores. The reason for the Callaway contract is fairly obvious. And the Target contract is to promote a line of Mossimo clothing.
Two million-dollar contracts while a kid is still in high school? Well, that just follows a trend Tryon set. He has a personal trainer. He has a sports psychologist. He, of course, has an instructor ' David Leadbetter, who worked wonders with Nick Faldo 15 years ago. And he has a mega-corporation to sort out the business deals ' Mark McCormacks IMG.
Oh ' did I mention that he is just 17? I did? Did I mention how many high school kids have such a cozy little business arrangement at 17?
One thing is certain, though. He is mature for 17 years old. He deals well with the adults. He deals well with the press. He seems totally unfazed by the golf phenomena, participating in pro tournaments and qualifiers like they were just another Saturday morning hit-and-giggle session.
Tryon will not have the chance to earn a paycheck that counts until June. That is because of a rule that he cannot become a PGA Tour member until he has reached his 18th birthday ' a rule, incidentally, that was rushed through the Tour in September of this year. No one ever dreamed that someone younger than 18 could actually make it through Q-School. As a caddie, maybe; as a player ' no.
Its that rule, though, that probably ensures him staying in class, at least this year. If his paychecks dont count on the PGA Tour, whats really the point? Might as well dabble in a few books until you have to make a decision ' which is next year during his senior season, by the way.
Tryon even has a website all his own ' www.tytryon.com. On it, we find such interesting tidbits that his father wasnt surprised that Ty made the field as a Monday qualifier at the Honda Classic ' Ty has attempted 16 such Monday qualifiers since the age of 13. Dad owns a mortgage business in Orlando. Dad, a 2-handicapper himself, rigged a net in the garage and gave 3-year-old Ty a plastic club. And Ty developed into a very respectable junior golfer.
Of course, the PGA Tour is light years away from junior golf. But Tryon has qualified for six rounds, in the finals, against a group of tour veterans. He did better than Blaine McCallister, Robert Gamez, Tommy Tolles, Ted Tryba, Jim McGovern, Nolan Henke and Gary Hallberg, to name a few.
A wise old bear named Jack Nicklaus could hardly believe the orbs when he saw Tryon while following son Gary at Q-School. Obviously, its pretty phenomenal for a young man, said Nicklaus. Jack, admittedly, never was one to go overboard on a new prospect.
Its quite possible, though, that like the rest of us, he couldnt really believe that what was happening ' was actually happening. Neither, it is suspected, could Tryon.
I just feel so relieved, he said after it was over. I dont know how to feel yet.
Then he used the word that has become a mantra for those who have yet to reach full manhood. Wow, he said simply.