- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2011

If the name Ty Tryon rings a bell, it’s likely not one that inspires thoughts of success and golf riches. Sure, Tryon signed endorsement deals worth $8 million and struck it rich as a teenage prodigy, but wins on the course never followed.

Tryon turned pro at age 16 in 2001 and was the youngest golfer to earn a PGA Tour card. After struggling there, he lost it and languished on the likes of the NGA Hooters Tour and the Gateway Tour, unable to live up to the pressure.

“It was just a lot of expectations,” Tryon said this week. “I was doing things for other people.”

Curtis Strange, now an analyst at ESPN after a career with 17 PGA Tour victories, wasn’t surprised that Tryon struggled after being “thrown to the wolves.”

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“He was, in my mind, too young,” Strange said. “Too young to get beat up and scarred and broken.”

Now, everything has changed. Tryon, who made next week’s U.S. Open at Congressional by shooting a 6-under 135 on Monday at sectional qualifying, said his attitude is “a lot better now” — a product of lessons learned from his fall from grace and becoming a husband and father.

Tryon’s talent is unmistakable still, despite his lack of success at the top professional levels. He shot a 138 last year at Woodmont to make the U.S. Open and improved on that this time, finishing his 36-hole day with a 40-foot shot for birdie.

“You know you got to do it,” he said quietly. “There’s 112 guys for 10 spots.”

That determined tone in Tryon’s voice underscores his maturity at the age of 27. He’s far removed from his prodigy days and now sees golf as a way to support his wife, Hanna, and his 4-year-old son, Tyson. He took a year off from touring to work at David Leadbetter’s Golf Academy in Orlando, Fla., something that helped change his mindset.

“I just look at it differently now,” Tryon said. “I had quit playing for a year competitively and worked at a golf course and stuff and saw that side of it. I was like, ‘Man, I just got to get out here and figure out how to get my golf game at least to where I can make a living at this.’ Because this is all I want to do. It’s all I’ve ever done.”

Tryon, who is playing the Rex Hospital Open on the Nationwide Tour this weekend in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C., talked about how much he loved to travel and how nice it was to be a professional golfer without a boss.

Of course, Tryon can keep that goal of playing golf for a living alive by continuing to ply his trade on the Nationwide Tour, but he said he embraces his own redemption story and it “drives him” to become relevant again.

Last year, he was 23 over at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, tying for 80th in his first major championship. Next week will be another chance to show tangible improvement, and Tryon said the biggest advantage is feeling the heat of the spotlight in a big event again after so much time away.

“Just playing in front of all the people again. I hadn’t really played in front of big crowds in about six years since I lost my status on the tour and played mini tours and all that,” he said. “That and all the other stuff that goes along with it — big parking lots, having to get there two hours before a tee time just so you can get around.”

That kind of scene is what kids dream of and want when they become professional golfers. But as Tryon warms back up to the U.S. Open, he’s still doing it for other people.

“At least it’s tangible people,” he said, referring to Hanna and Tyson.

That’s the mature Tryon speaking — and the one who appears poised to turn that new attitude into results, perhaps as early as next week at Congressional.

“You learn from your mistakes. You learn from losing golf tournaments and from what he went through,” Strange said. “You got to claw your way back. And everyone’s rooting for him now.”