Longform Podcast

Chasing Ty Tryon

A special longform podcast examines the rise, fall and ongoing story of a one-time can't-miss phenomJanuary 10, 2018

As golf’s greatest phenom, Tiger Woods, embarks on a comeback this season at age 42, it’s worth remembering another phenom of roughly the same era: Ty Tryon. If you don’t remember Ty, he’s the guy who played his way through Q School in 2001, earning a PGA Tour card—as a 17-year-old high schooler. His emergence on tour rattled the golf world. Could he be the next Tiger Woods? Why not? He’d survived Q School, a string of tournaments so grueling it had dismantled the games and egos of many grown men. Looking at a teenager who could play like that, it was easy for people to think: What could he do next year? In five years? In 10?

But golf doesn’t always work like that. Actually, golf rarely works like that.

Related: Catch up on all the Golf Digest Podcasts

That first season on tour for Tryon was full of missed cuts and illness, which eventually lead to Tryon losing his card and mysteriously disappearing from the game and the public eye. Some 15 years later, we wanted to know what exactly happened, and that led to our chase, both the literal and figurative variety, of Ty Tryon. In digging into this story, I spoke with people from Ty’s past: his former coaches, teammates, his caddie, other journalists who covered him, and more. What I came away with is what you’ll hear below. It’s a story of a young man’s relationship with this confusing, unfair game that’s full of as much hurt as it is hope.

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Dom Furore

"Ty was sort of this lightning bolt that appeared, and it was electric. It was one of the most remarkable things I’ve seen in golf. And I was there when Tiger did the wrap-around Grand Slam and many other crazy things that have happened over 20-odd years of covering golf. The Tryon thing, that just defied description. He was good well beyond his years at that time." Steve Elling, writer at the Orlando Sentinel during Ty’s Q School run.

"Of all the juniors you teach, there are only a few players who come through with that kind of talent." Swing instuctor Gary Gilchrist

"There is no formula. Other than good common sense and good parenting and let the kid take it where he takes it." Former Golf World Editor-in-Chief Jaime Diaz

"He had never really had a bad stretch of golf in his whole life until he got out there. It’s not one of those guys who’s had his ups and downs. When you’re a junior, sometimes you just get better and better and better all the time. As you get older, you have those stretches when you start to get worse for a few months, even if you’re really good. And you get back, and you improve. Maybe he never had time to go through that until he was out there unfortunately. He got better and never went through any slumps. And when it started happening to him, it happened at the worst possible time. You’re out there. You’re at the big show. And you’ve never experienced it. What do you do? How do you battle through that?" BK Suhr, one of Ty's high school teammates.

Warren Little

"He passed the smell test. There’s a lot of really good juniors and a lot of really good players, but I think if you’ve been around the game and you start to watch different players, you can tell this kid’s got it. This kid’s a little different. He was that kid." John Cook, PGA Tour player whose son played on Ty’s high school team.

Darren Carroll

"Ty came up in the Tiger Woods era. Tiger quadrupled prize money and made professional golf really what it is today form an income standpoint. [Ty] grew up in that. He was in that sort of rush. Everybody was looking for the new young Tiger and there he was: 16-year-old Ty Tryon. Good looking kid, hit the ball a mile. Here’s the next Tiger. That’s what they were looking for. A lot of mistakes were made.” David Leadbetter, Ty's coach.