Originally created 12/04/01

Teen-ager earns PGA Tour card



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Seventeen-year-old Ty Tryon became the youngest player to earn his PGA Tour card Monday when he posted a bogey-free 66 and finished tied for 23rd at qualifying school.

Tryon, a junior in high school, made one of the most grueling tests in golf look like child's play at Bear Lakes Country Club. Seemingly immune to the pressure, he never came close to a bogey and wound up with the score he thought he needed to reach golf's big leagues.

"Tonight when I go to sleep, I'll know I'm on the PGA Tour," said Tryon, who finished at 18-under-par 414.

He'll have to wait a little while longer.

The PGA Tour policy board passed a new rule in September that players must be 18 to become a member. Tryon will be allowed to play seven tournaments under a sponsor's exemption and can play up to 12 events until June 2, when he turns 18.

Those were minor details. All that mattered on a breezy day in south Florida was that a kid who last year was in junior golf played well enough to earn his place alongside Tiger Woods and David Duval on the toughest tour in golf.

Pat Perez rallied over the final holes and closed with an even-par 72 to win the tournament at 27-under 405 by one stroke over Bob Burns, Pete Jordan and Kenneth Staton. Along with his card, Perez won $50,000 and a higher priority for getting into tournaments early next year.

The only collapse came from Robert Gamez, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour in 1990 when he was rookie of the year. He shot 40 on the front nine, finished with a 2-over 74 and missed his card by one stroke.

Tryon rarely showed emotion through the final round, considered one of the most pressure-packed in golf because of what's at stake. The top 35 and ties after the six-round tournament get PGA Tour cards; the rest go to the developmental Buy.com Tour.

Tryon was three strokes below the cut line and figured he needed a 6-under 66 on the final day.

It looked so easy for someone so young.

A junior at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Tryon hit a growth sport earlier this year to get to 5-foot-11, although his body is still wiry, his cheeks are pocked with acne and he has some room to grow into his size-13 shoes.

He used his length to overpower the par 5s and never made any serious mistakes.

Fittingly, the turning point came when Tryon and his threesome were put on the clock. The kid in a hurry to grow up birdied the next two holes, then ripped a 3-iron from 227 yards into a stiff breeze to 12 feet on his 12th hole and made eagle.

His final birdie - this one for some breathing room - came on his 15th hole, when he hit 2-iron from 240 yards right over the flag to 20 feet for a routine two-putt.

His family followed him throughout the round - two younger brothers and a sister, none of whom play golf; and his parents, who turned him loose when he showed he was determined to skip college and go right to the pros.

"I was very pensive watching destiny play itself out," said his father, Bill Tryon. "He's got a lot of heart. All he needed was someone to tell him he couldn't do it."

South Florida is where his success started in March.

At 16, Tryon made it through Monday qualifying at the Honda Classic, then became the youngest player in 44 years to make a cut on the PGA Tour. He finished in a tie for 39th, eight strokes out of the lead.

Tryon got an invitation to the B.C. Open in July and was a co-leader after the first round.

He turned pro after failing to advance to match play in the U.S. Amateur, and several pros thought it was a huge mistake to skip college. He proved them wrong, making it through all three stages - 14 rounds - of Q-School.

"If he can get in the game and get to where he can overachieve, he usually does," Bill Tryon said.

Tryon might have to skip the rookie orientation the next two days. He has to get back to high school and turn in an English paper on "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"I've read so much," he said, rolling his eyes.

Others who earned cards were Russ Cochran, who went out in 29 and closed with an 8-under 64; Gary Nicklaus made it through again by tying for 13th; Luke Donald of England, the former NCAA champion, also got in.