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Ty Tryon eager to return to golf

Ty Tryon must be relieved the first assignment for his final year of high school doesn't include a paper on how he spent his summer.

The vacation didn't pan out the way he imagined.

"For the most part, I was at home, watching TV, playing video games, reading, a little clubbing, hanging out with my girlfriend, not much else," Tryon said, rattling off an agenda that sounds like a typical, carefree summer for a senior-to-be.

However, Tryon isn't a typical teenager. No other kid his age has a PGA Tour card.

Instead of mixing it up with Tiger Woods, Tyron had his tonsils taken out a week before his 18th birthday.

"I couldn't even eat my birthday dinner," he said.

The closest he got to the PGA Tour was in front of the television. While guys like Spike McRoy and Chris Riley were winning for the first time on tour, Tryon was at home in Orlando, Fla., with a menacing case of mononucleosis.

"Mono is weird," he said. "Some days you feel good, some days you feel bad. I played nine holes one afternoon, and the next day I couldn't even get out of bed."

He went 2 1/2 months without being able to play a full round of golf.

Now that's weird.

"The longest I'd ever gone without playing was about two weeks one year when my family went on vacation," Tryon said.

That was nothing. Tryon has gone 24 weeks without playing a tournament, a forced sabbatical that finally comes to an end this week when he returns to competition at the Utah Classic on the Tour.

Look on the bright side.

Since the PGA Tour has given Tryon a medical exemption that allows him to play at least 23 tournaments through the end of 2003, he could become the first player to win rookie of the year and comeback player of the year in the same season.

"It's a fresh start," Tryon said. "I'm real excited to be competing again."

The enthusiasm was just as high last November. At age 17, not long after starting his junior year in high school, Tryon sailed through all three stages of PGA Tour qualifying to become the youngest player to earn his card.

He breezed to a bogey-free 66 in the final round, which many regard as the most pressure-packed in golf. He made it look like child's play.

Fittingly, it was a couple of maladies so typical of teenagers that did him in.

It wasn't the travel. He wasn't overwhelmed by expectations and obligations. His maturity and social skills were never an issue, whether he could manage to blend in with guys old enough to be his father.

Tryon now can trace his ailments back to Q-school, when he tied for 23rd at Bear Lakes Country Club despite recovering from what he thought was strep throat.

He never got better.

Tryon felt lazy at times, had trouble concentrating. His sports psychologist suggested in early March that he might have mono, which wasn't confirmed until a few months later.

That doesn't explain why Tryon missed the cut in the Phoenix Open, Doral, the Honda Classic and the Bay Hill Invitational, the only four PGA Tour events he played this year.

"I was going in there too stressed, with too many thoughts in my mind," he said. "Instead of just playing golf, I had 10 things in my mind -- stupid things, like calling this person for tickets, so many little things I was not prepared for."

In that respect, spending his summer at home instead of on tour might have been a blessing. Being away from golf for nearly six months gave him time to reflect, and to offer some refreshingly honest assessments about being a teenager on tour.

"I was so overwhelmed," he said. "It was a mess for me. I had a good time on the golf course, but I didn't know what to do, how it all worked. I didn't know the crowds were going to be so big."

That's typical of most rookies. Not many of them own up to it, and Tryon tried to play that game by keeping his chin up after missing the cut and talking about what a great learning experience the week had been.

"Inside I felt like, 'I did some dumb stuff today,' but I never showed that," he said. "I knew I could have done better but I would say, 'Oh, it was a learning experience.' I shouldn't have gone in there with that attitude.

"I should have gone in there trying to shoot the lowest score I can."

That's what he wants to do this week in Utah, although his expectations will be understandably lower coming off his hiatus. That will be his goal when he returns to the PGA Tour, most likely at the Tampa Bay Classic in two weeks.

He earned his card because he can play. Like any kid, Tryon can't wait for his next chance to prove it.

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