For those golf fans or others tempted to ask what ever happened to Ty Tryon, there’s a quick easy answer.
He’s playing in the Rex Hospital Open, teeing off at 2 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the Web.com Tour event at TPC Wakefield Plantation after earning a spot in Monday qualifying.
And this might be a surprise: Tyron is just 33.
That’s a prime age for professional golfers, including one who first qualified for the PGA Tour at 17, too young to legally drink or even drive the players’ courtesy cars at most tour stops.
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Tryon, a Raleigh native, did more or less disappear after 2012, giving golf lessons here and there for three years, spending time teaching in China, convinced there would be no more playing days.
But Tryon is back, married and a father, saying he has stopped drinking alcohol for more than a year and is ready to see if that potential talent of his teenage days can be now be realized.
In January 2017, Tryon began a new golf chapter, saying, “I was feeling unfulfilled.” It was back to the practice range, spending six or seven hours a day hitting balls, working on his game. It was playing in some mini-tour events in the Orlando, Fla., area, cashing a few paychecks, albeit small. Competing.
“I really put my heart into it and started doing it religiously,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “I actually won a tournament about a month ago. Won $5,000. I know how to play golf.
“And I stopping drinking alcohol. That helped me physically and mentally, too. I’m pretty healthy. My family life is really good. It’s was about giving it one last shot.”
Tryon’s first shot at tour life is what most remember. How he became the youngest player to ever earn a PGA Tour card in the fall of 2001. How he signed contracts with Callaway and FootJoy worth millions and was scooped up as a client by International Management Group.
He was the would-be boy wonder, the shaggy haired prodigy. No college golf for him. Famed instructor David Leadbetter had honed his swing under the sun in Orlando and he was all set for the PGA Tour, age be damned.
All of which was too much. Much too much for a 17-year-old. He missed most of his first year on tour because of mononucleosis. He had one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour, in his second year at Bay Hill in 2003, but couldn’t make enough money to keep his playing card.
“It was just a tough situation,” he said. “It was more than just playing golf. It was a little tougher for me than for just the normal person getting their tour card.”
The rest, at least until his sabbatical began in 2012, was mostly a struggle. He did make it through qualifying to play in the U.S. Open in 2010 and 2011 but missed the cut in each. He also reached the final stage of the PGA Tour’s Qualifying Tournament — the so-called Q-School — a few times but couldn’t make that last step back on tour.
The Rex Hospital Open gave him a sponsor’s exemption to play in 2011, for which he remains grateful. But the missed cuts had built up to the point it was time to find something else to do.
As Tryon put it, “I got away from the game, seeing the other side of it.”
But those around him wouldn’t let him stay away from the game. His family was supportive. His wife, Hanna, urged him to try again.
“It was like, ‘Come on, Ty, you can do it, don’t give up now,’” he said. “It was like a new lease on life. I was a little let down my last go-around. I kind of puttered out and didn’t have any feelings I was going to bring it home, so I stopped playing.”
The past 15 or so months, he said, has been a slow build. He has a new instructor, former Web.com Tour player Matt Richardson, and is enjoying again being in competition.
“I’ve been able to play and drop all the emotional baggage that comes from underachieving and the where-you-are, what-you-should-be-doing kind of things,” Tryon said.
A part of his career rebuild now is going through Monday qualifying for Web.com Tour events. Tryon qualified for the Savannah Golf Championship in March.. He did it again Monday, shooting a 64, then surviving an eight-man playoff for six available spots at Greensboro National Golf Club — a second six-spot qualifier was held at Grandover Resort.
Another Raleigh native, Parker Gillam, also made it through the eight-man playoff. He’s 19, coming off his freshman year at Wake Forest. And he knows Ty Tryon’s story.
“Got through when he was 17, right? Youngest player on the tour,” Gillam said.
Tryon later laughed, noting he probably was the oldest guy in the eight-man playoff. Missing out in the playoff was Akshay Bhatia, 16, the junior standout from Wake Forest.
“I feel great about the state of my game,” Tryon said. “The main thing is I have a good attitude. My plan is to stay positive, stay focused and really believe in my ability. “Gut it out. Make the most of my opportunities. And no excuses.”