His first round as the youngest card-carrying PGA Tour member ever was over, and 17-year-old Ty Tryon was in a white GMC Yukon heading back to his five-star hotel with his father, Bill, and his agent, Jay Danzi of IMG. Ty's Callaways were in the back, and his CDs—Linkin Park, Outkast, 311, Tool, 36 Mafia—were in the front.
"It was a dyslexic round," Bill said before the music came on. "Out in 43, in in 34." As far as anyone knows, Bill is the only man with a goatee whose son is a Tour player. He's 44, a mortgage banker at ease with the word karma. The 77 in the opening round of last week's Phoenix Open, which was won by Chris DiMarco, could have been a lot worse. Had Ty lost his head or swing or confidence, he might well have finished 80 plus. He didn't do that. He started with a gallery of 2,000, but he "scared them off," he said, with a couple of hooked tee shots, a couple of pushed approach shots, a skanky chip, the 43. Then he grounded his size-13 feet, made the turn and played like the pro he is the rest of the way.
"I wasn't nervous," Ty said, "but you know that feeling when you're going down a flight of stairs and you miss a step? That's what I felt like on the first nine." You know the feeling: Your heart races, your knees buckle, but you grab the handrail and soon realize everything's O.K.
Everything is O.K. for Ty. He has money in the bank, money coming in and a Tour card. He has a gorgeous, modern swing with a flowing follow-through. He has the best coaching money can buy—two people for the swing, four for the body and one for the head. He has a cute girlfriend, Lauren Bedford, an Elite model and a senior at his school, Dr. Phillips High in Orlando. (Lauren appeared on the cover of Teen magazine's special back-to-school issue in the fall of 2000.) He has a close family that watched his every shot last week. He has a probing, inquisitive mind. "The best thing," Bill said after one of Ty's putts had lipped out, "is that he is only a junior in high school."
Ty pops in a CD. 311, yes! You know that sound: surfy, vaguely Middle Eastern, loud. If Bill wasn't digging it, you couldn't tell. He grew up on Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Dean Smith. He was a member of the junior varsity basketball team and the statistician for the varsity at North Carolina. Smith preached this above all else: Respect yourself, respect others, use your time well. That's how Bill has coached Ty; that's how Bill and his wife, Georgia, have raised Ty, as well as his younger sister and two kid brothers.
The music comes on, and Ty goes into a groove. "Turn that down," says Danzi, an old man of 27. He still listens to Hole.
Ty turns down the music without complaint. His life credo is time-tested: Treat others as you'd like to be treated. At the Phoenix Open, he obliged virtually every person who asked for his autograph. He remembers what it was like for him only a year or two ago when he was on the other side of the ropes, pen in hand.
The Tryons and Danzi arrive at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a sprawling pink palace of a hotel that was a tent in the desert last week for Fred Couples, Davis Love III and Nick Price, among other Tour celebrities. College golf teams don't hole up at places like the Princess, where the Tryons were registered under the name Chevy Chase. (Ty's real name is William Augustus Tryon IV. His nickname comes from Ty Webb, the golfing smoothie Chase plays in Caddyshack.) Ty is skipping over all the 6 a.m. bus trips and the Red Roof Inn nights and the other bonding moments of the college golf experience. People ask him, "Aren't you going to miss out on all that?" Ty responds, "Playing the PGA Tour is what I want to do. I can do it now, so why shouldn't I?" His parents are entrepreneurs—years ago, in another lifetime in North Carolina, they founded a lending company named Mr. Cash—and so is Ty. He's playing pro golf for a bunch of reasons, and making money is one of the most important of them.
As he slides out of the front seat of the SUV, Ty sees an irresistible sight resting at his feet on the parking-lot cement: a securely wrapped Tootsie Roll Pop, the stick still virginal white. He picks it up.
"Would you eat it?" he asks Danzi, who twists his lips, joins his eyebrows into one and shakes his head. He's an old man. He's 27.