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Warren Bennett

17 year old Tryon makes professional debut

Ty Tryon was supposed to be in high school when he showed up for his professional debut at Kingsmill Golf Club, so it's not surprising the gate guard wouldn't let him in without a pass.

The 17-year-old Tryon doesn't figure to have that problem for long.

The high school junior from Orlando, Fla., signed endorsement deals this week with Callaway Golf and Target Stores, then got a sponsor's exemption to make his pro debut in the Michelob Championship.

``I'm just real excited to be here,'' he said Wednesday, the day before his third start on the PGA Tour and first since turning pro.

He signed a three-year deal Wednesday with Callaway to play its clubs and new golf ball. He also signed with Target to wear the company's design and Mossimo clothing and help create a golf wardrobe.

Terms were not disclosed, but an industry source speaking on condition of anonymity said both deals likely would bring in about $1 million per year.

``I've always played Callaway for numerous years,'' Tryon said. ``It's just kind of a match made in heaven, and I'm real excited about it.''

Tryon was supposed to make his professional debut at the Tampa Bay Classic, which was called off because of the terrorist attacks. He canceled his trip to Paris the next week for the Lancome Trophy.

Some think Tryon is turning pro too soon.

``Stay in school,'' Curtis Strange said when asked how he would advise Tryon. ``Play college golf. Play against your peers. Learn to win against your peers. ... He's giving up a wonderful time in his life.''

Tryon said he considered all sides.

``You've got to do what you think is right and what you want to do, and this is what I want to do,'' he said. ``Everybody has their opinion and they're entitled to their opinion, but in the end this is about what I want to do. ... I want to be a pro golfer, so why not start now?''

He also knows the going may be rough.

``It just takes time. I don't expect to go out and tear it up in the beginning,'' he said. ``I have my dreams and all, but you've just got to play smart and know that it's a lifelong game.''

Clearly, he has people behind him banking on his success.

``We feel good about Ty's prospects,'' Callaway spokesman Larry Dorman said. ``His birth certificate might say 17, but he's not 17. He has the awareness and the maturity on the course of a much older and wiser head. He is prepared and ready.''

Tryon has a good track record so far.

He was a Monday qualifier for the Honda Classic in March, became the youngest player in 44 years to make the cut and tied for 39th.

``I shot even par for two rounds,'' Tryon said. ``You kind of get lapped when you shoot even par. It was a good reality check for me.''

At the B.C. Open, Tryon was the first-round leader and finished in a tie for 37th, the highest finish by an amateur in the event's history.

For the Michelob, Tryon shot 71 in the Monday qualifier, missed the cut and was ready to leave for home, when he learned he received the exemption.

When he returned to the course Tuesday, ``no one knew that I was in the tournament at the gate. It took me like 20 minutes to smooth-talk my way in, and then I couldn't find registration. That took another 20 minutes.''

Someday soon, though, he hopes getting in will get easier.

``Hopefully,'' he said, ``they'll know who I am down the road.''

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