Ty Tryon gets carded next week. On June 2, his 18th birthday, young Tryon gets full use of his Tour card. After months of relying on sponsors' exemptions because he was underage, he can finally exercise the playing privileges he earned at Q school.
Too bad he can't exercise. Ty is laid up for a month or so with mononucleosis, the strength-sapping disease that strikes thousands of teens every year. Coming down with mono was a tough break for a guy who had fought another childhood disease, strep throat, during Q school, and his medical report gets worse: Once Ty recovers from mono, he'll need to have his tonsils taken out.
Back in 1996, when Tiger Woods turned professional at age 20, young pros had to deal with mishits and the media. Now it's zits and orthodontia. When Aree Wongluekiet was asked when she would turn pro, she said, "After I get my braces off." At 16 she's three years older than Morgan Pressel, another phenom with a titanium smile. Mina Harigae and Sydney Burlison (SI, May 13), who finished one-two at the California Amateur, are only 12; ditto Michelle Wie, who last week played in her second LPGA event this year. At least the preteens have their priorities straight: First they'll go out and hit balls, then they'll go out and hit puberty.
What's going on in Mr. Woods's neighborhood? Nothing that hasn't already happened in tennis, another sport in which talent, training and drive forge champions who still watch Nickelodeon. Tennis champs are pint-sized obsessives who eat right, work out and consult sports psychologists. Woods was the first golfer to be so precocious (he once explained an injury by saying, "I'm still growing into my body"), and Ty Tryon is his avatar. Ty, who'll be movie-star handsome once his acne clears up, was never a junior star because he was a shrimp—it took a teen growth spurt before he grew into the swing he had spent years developing, which he unleashed last year when he shot up to 5'11" and started hitting balls 320 yards.
Suddenly Ty had Tiger power. But with great power comes great vulnerability—not to muscle pulls or arthritis but to childhood maladies the Tour has never seen. Tryon is only the first of a new breed of golfers, and in this brave newbie world, kiddie diseases will matter more than ever. It may have been prophecy, not malaprop, when Sergio Garc�a, 22, said of a round with Arnold Palmer, "Listening to the ovation they gave him, I was getting, what do you call it, chicken pox."
Here's another prophecy: Tryon's tonsils are a warning sign, swollen harbingers of a future full of tyke tales like these.
Sacramento, Sept. 2, 2002—For Natalie Gulbis, navel and nostril piercings sounded novel. Then they got infected. "Now I'll miss the Safeway Classic," said a dejected and grossed-out Gulbis, adding that her father will ground her for, like, ever. SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ., Jan. 20, 2003—Tigger Thomas is a phenom who won't crack under pressure. But his voice will.
Orlando, April 1, 2005—Talk about your water hazard. Nights at the Leadbetter Academy seem endless for the boy all the bigger golfers laugh at. The Leadbetter bed wetter, they call him.
Suva, Fiji, June 19, 2010—A match-play playdate erupted in shouts and kicking today when Rahul Singh, 5, took his ball and went home. "He cheated!" said another boy. "Did not," Rahul said. Young Singh invited reporters to kiss his boo-boo.
Troon, Scotland, March 4, 2016—Colin Montgomerie Jr. won't be playing in the U.S. "Little Colin is colicky," his mother announced.