Ty at the Top

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Awesome. That was the word of the week for 16-year-old William Augustus Tryon IV. Qualifying for the Honda Classic was 'awesome.' Shooting a first-round 67 was 'awesome.' Making the cut was 'awesome.' Finishing tied for 39th was 'awesome.' Getting an exemption into next year's event was 'awesome.'
 
Better known as Ty, Tryon became a media sensation this week in Coral Springs, Fla. The Lake Highland High School (Orlando, Fla.) sophomore made news by shooting 70 and Monday qualifying for the Honda. He then grabbed the major headlines by shooting 67 in Round One and eventually becoming the second youngest player in PGA Tour history to make a cut.
 
A modest and affable kid, Tryon was a deer in headlights when the throng of reporters came to interview him the first two days. Though quite poised on the course, he didn't really know what to do off it.
 
'Do I look at you or at the camera?' he asked NBC's Mark Rolfing before a live interview following his second-round 73.
 
'That was the most nerve-racking experience of the week,' he later said of the interview.
 
But by Saturday he was a seasoned veteran. Joking with the scribes. Acknowledging his audience. It had almost become routine. It was certainly expected.
 
But the awe hadn't completely vanished from awesome. After his third-round 70, he was once again interviewed by NBC. 'Is this live?' he asked. When the reporter answered, 'No,' Tryon responded, 'Cool, then I can go watch it.'
 
That was the best part of the week for Tryon - seeing himself on television.
 
'That's awesome, being on SportsCenter and The Golf Channel - even for one second, that's cool,' Tyron said with a joy that is most often reserved for kids.
 
Admittedly, Tryon loved the attention. He especially loved wowing the crowd. In the third round, after recording seven straight pars, Tryon looked to his caddie, Tim 'Smiles Malone' Thalamueller, and said he needed to start making some birdies because 'my crowd is dwindling.'
 
Thalamueller was just one of many who was impressed by the 16-year-old. Known simply as 'Smiles,' he has seen this kind of talent before, having toted a bag for the likes of Tom Watson, Mark O'Meara and John Cook. In fact, it was Cook who arranged for the two to work together.
 
Cook is the assistant coach to Tryon's team, which also includes the sons of he and David Leadbetter, as well as Christo Greyling, who qualified for the 2000 Buick Challenge and missed the cut.
 
Cook played the Honda and actually finished one shot higher than his pupil, who ended the tournament at 10-under-par.
 
This Monday, Tryon said Cook is taking the team to California to play, among others, Torrey Pines and Mission Hills. That meant as soon as his final round ended and he had fulfilled his obligations to the media and his fans, he was going to ride back to Orlando with his parents, who were in attendance, get a bit of sleep and head to the Golden State at 6:45 a.m.
 
'That's gonna be great,' Tryon said with a smile. This from a kid who slept a carefree ten hours after shooting 67 in his PGA Tour debut.
 
When asked where school fit into his schedule, Tryon just shrugged his shoulders. He's got one week of golf vacation until he returns to his air-conditioned classroom.
 
Tryon knows when he gets back home the reaction is going to be 'mind-boggling.' But he's prepared.
 
'I think I know what to expect,' said the country's fifth-ranked junior amateur golfer. 'I've already dealt with a lot this week.'
 
That includes signing autographs - hundreds and hundreds of them. He even signed a couple coming off the 18th green on Friday - in the middle of his round.
 
'It's so weird. That's the No. 1 new thing to me, signing autographs. I can't believe I'm signing autographs for kids my age. And like turning people down, I feel like so bad.'
 
Tryon knows what it's like to get turned down for an autograph. Living in Orlando, he got turned down by the best golfers in the world. Now he knows how difficult it is to try and please everybody. Though, he really did try and usually succeeded.
 
Tryon's performance this week - both on and off the course - drew rave reviews from all involved, including the players.
 
'I was really impressed with his composure. He seemed to have it together emotionally as well as physically,' said Jeff Hart, who was paired with Tryon in the third round. 'He's got a pretty bright future ahead. If he needs a sponsor, I'm willing to ante up. I'd take out a loan for him.'
 
Said Honda champion Jesper Parnevik: 'I talked to a few guys and we could hardly remember what we did when we were 16. So what he's doing here is unbelievable.'
 
Perhaps the most unbelievable thing occurred Friday, when after 31 holes of competition, Tryon was just two shots off the lead and tied for second place. He reeled off three consecutive birdies on his back nine, but then like Icarus, whose wings melted when he flew too close to the sun, Tryon faltered down the stretch.
 
Tryon played his final five holes that day in 5-over. But he made the cut. In the process, he became the youngest player since Bob Panasik (15 years, eight months, 20 days) in the 1957 Canadian Open to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.
 
'This is like a movie,' said Leadbetter, Tryon's main instructor. 'You see 16-year-olds playing like this in junior tournaments, but you don't see it in this company.'
 
The fairy tale continued on Saturday, when Tryon concluded his third round by holing a bunker shot for birdie on the par-4 finishing hole.
 
'It's the best shot I've ever hit,' he told the press. 'That's going to stick with me forever.'
 
Saturday night, he watched his highlight on ESPN. 'That was awesome,' he said.
 
Sunday was another memorable day. Tryon made the turn in 4-under-par 32, and then birdied the 10th to move to 11-under for the event. He bogeyed holes 12 and 13, but responded with a birdie at the 14th.
 
He capped his day - and his tournament - with an eight-foot par save on the 72nd hole.
 
'That was pretty impressive,' said Tom Lehman, who played in the final round with Tryon. 'He's way, way, way beyond his years.
 
'He's also very polite. He kept calling me `Mr. Lehman,' which was pretty hard to swallow.'
 
Said Tryon following his 4-under-par 68: 'I had fun today. I had fun all week. I just didn't want it to end.'
 
Alas, it had to. But not without a lifetime experience gained. For now, Tryon returns to playing with kids his own age. Still a greenhorn behind the wheel of a car and not yet ready to use the electric razor his dad bought for him, Tryon is back to just being another kid - at least off the course.
 
'I hope I get back (from California) to Bay Hill on Sunday and watch the guys,' Tryon said in reference to next week's PGA Tour event in Orlando.
 
'The guys.' Tryon feels like he's one of them, now. That more than anything has to feel awesome.
 
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