A Christmas Carol


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MINNEOLA, Fla. ' Thursdays green-grass Christmas Carol unfolded on two continents and featured a vastly divergent cast, but the elements were unmistakable. As if on cue, potential past, present and future marched across golfs stage, each tale unique yet vaguely familiar.
Unlike the Hollywood version of Christmas Carol, potential present ' in the form of Irish phenom Shane Lowry ' was first up. At Dublins Westbury Hotel the most recent cant-miss kid moved beyond the amateur ranks to join the work-a-day-world of professional golf.
Its easy to Thursday morning quarterback a young mans decision, but then those in glass press rooms should avoid tossing laptops. Just ask Ty Tryon, perhaps the original wee world beater who crashed the PGA Tour party unannounced in 2001 at the age of 17 and almost as quickly became a Trivia Pursuit answer: Who was the youngest Tour player ever to retire for $300, please Alex.
On the heels of Lowrys coming out, we caught up with Tryon in the parking lot at Sugarloaf Mountain Golf Club in central Florida where he was playing a U.S. Open local qualifier. Could the one-time phenom offer the newest member of the club any advice?
Be true to yourself, said Tryon, but not to the young Lowry. No, that pearl was directed right back at the kid in the visor with the overgrown locks.
At a worldly 24, Tryon has grown into the ultimate enigma. The flame that burned so bright should have scorched every amber of love for golf, but on Thursday on the rolling Sugarloaf layout Tryon was pure passion. Just like he was in 2001 when he finished 39th at the Honda Classic and later that fall when he aced the Q-School test to become the youngest Tour member.
Tryon hasnt quit the game. Not even close. In fact, judging by the bounce in his step on Thursday hes pulled off the rarest of turnarounds. Hes rekindled his passion and his fire for a game that at one time looked as if it might destroy him.
In 2004 on the Nationwide Tour my heart just wasnt in it, said Tryon, whose 70 earned him a spot in a playoff for an alternate spot that he ultimately lost to Eustis Paine. I was dreading going to the golf course at certain times. There were times I wanted to be done with the game at that moment, but I was never done.
Perspective arrived about three years ago in the form of a healthy, happy little boy named Tyson. The one-time man child now has a child of his own, and a home and a wife and an identity that doesnt depend on how well hes putting or how far hes hitting his driver.
Tryon gave it his best shot in 2008, chasing Monday qualifiers on the Nationwide Tour he logged more than 26,000 miles in his jet-black SUV and almost as many close calls. He played two good rounds at the first stage of Q-School last fall, lost focus on Day 3 and blew up.
The old Tyron would have moped for months. But when youve got a 3 year old you cant take your 87s home with you, so he moved on and got a 40-hour a week job at the David Leadbetter Academy at ChampionsGate just outside Orlando, Fla.
He wasnt chasing the dream, but he was still in golf. And that was good enough.
I dont want to go back out trying to Monday qualify on the Nationwide Tour, Tryon said. Id rather see what its like to be a dad.
He hasnt given up on playing professionally. Far from it, in fact. He hopes to play the Tarheel Tour this year and maybe try a couple Monday qualifiers to stay sharp for Q-School.
Days like Thursday help. That 70 ' just his second competitive round since his October meltdown at Q-School ' didnt earn him a spot at sectional qualifying, but his birdie-birdie start got his competitive juices flowing and his finish had the 24-year-old version looking a lot like the 16-year-old model.
I said I would eagle the last, and I did, he smiled. Its so good to think of your shot, pick a line and pull it off. That gets you excited.
As for Lowry, Tryon wouldnt even entertain the thought of unsolicited advice. A man who has been second guessed his entire career has no interest in playing the what if game. If he could TiVo his own explosive career and play a mulligan, however, there is one thing hed change.
If I was in the same position again I would have tried to stay a little more true to myself, he said. I should have tried to get better every single day.
About an hour before Tryon signed for his 70, Carlos Miguel Fabregas bounded up the stairs to the Sugarloaf Mountain clubhouse, 68 on his card and dreams of Bethpage Black filling his head.
The ghost of potential future had an eerily familiar glow to him as he awaited his qualifying fate. Fabregas, 20, is a self-described Leadbetter kid, honed at the renowned instructors academies and bent on professional success. He turned pro last year because, My dads not a big fan of college, so Im not a big fan of college.
The bar-stool analyst beckons. When did it become status quo to short change youth? College may not be for everyone, but the question begs: Is it for anyone anymore?
And just as quickly the ghost of potential past interrupts.
For a year and half I didnt miss a shot or a putt. I had no fear of failure, Tryon said of those halcyon days when he burst onto the Tour scene. But its different now. My perspective has changed. Ive been able to keep the love of the game and be a father.
Lost in all that second guessing is the resiliency of youth. Ghosts past, present and future may never reach professional glory, but as Tryon has proven, maybe its more important if they can just stumble into personal glory along the way.
Related Links:
  • U.S. Open local qualifying results