RENO - If the biggest galleries at a golf tournament were always a true reflection of who was playing well, Galena High senior Bryson Young would be the current leader at the Reno-Tahoe Open.
If the loudest claps always followed birdies, Young would be at 36-under par going into today's third round, and well on his way to becoming the youngest player ever to win a PGA Tour event.
If, if, if. That's the only thing Young is left with now. After finishing at 13-over par, Young failed to make the cut at the RTO on Friday, which was really the only thing he was shooting for. The cattle drive that followed the 17-year old up and down and all around Montreux Golf and Country Club the past two days, wanted to see much more than that.
Instead, they witnessed Young struggle, struggle like he hasn't since before girls and pimples became a worry.
"It's been many, many years," said Young about the last time he's shot so poorly. "It's probably been six years since I was 8-over through six holes (describing Thursday's first round).
"But then again, the pressure was just incredible. Every shot I was trying to hit, I was trying to hit the best shot possible. A lot of it was that I was putting pressure on myself."
Before teeing off Thursday morning in the first round, he nearly goofed up golf's most fundamental rituals-placing the ball on the tee.
"I told myself that I had to put the tee in the ground and I had to put the ball on the tee before he (the starter) said my name, because I knew the second he said my name it was going to be huge eruption. And I wouldn't be able to calm myself," Young said. "And that's exactly what happened. I struggled to put the ball on tee, actually. If you can't tee the ball up, you can't really expect to hit a good shot."
And good shots didn't follow. At least, not right away.
Young double bogeyed three of the first six holes on his way to a 44 on the front nine Thursday. He played the back nine at even par to finish the day with an 8-over 80. Then in Friday's second round, Young shot a 77, an inconsistent round which included three birdies, six bogeys, and a double bogey. And a score that was 12 shots worse than the 65 he shot during Monday's qualifier, when he became the youngest player ever to qualify for RTO.
Young, who was the only amateur in the field, finished the RTO in second to last place, one shot ahead of Rick Leibovitz.
"I really wanted to do well this week and make the cut, to show that I can play and that the 65 wasn't luck," Young said. "I obviously didn't play the way I wanted to. But for about six holes Friday, I showed some people that I could play and on the back nine (Thursday), I did. I had some shots when I said to myself, 'geez, what am I doing out here?' But then I had a few shots that showed that I did belong out there."
Young, regarded as one of the best high school players in Nevada, is known to be hard on himself. Most star athletes are. It's been rumored he has a sports psychologist, which sounds ridiculous for a 17-year old. But a lot of professional athletes have one. Now after two days of being humbled by professionals, Young wants more than ever to have a reason to have a sports psychologist in the future.
"I would love to," Young said about eventually making golf a career. "I had some career changes during my round Thursday. On the front nine, I said 'gosh why am I out here? I need an education.' But on Friday, I didn't say it that much. After the first couple holes, I was thinking, okay in a couple of years maybe I can play with these guys.
"I have a lot to learn. These guys don't any mistakes, really. I made a bunch of mistakes. It's going to take a lot of practice and hard work, but I know what to do."