Tylan Baker is a young man with goals, and he’s not one to dillydally while pursuing them. Ask him his age, and he says “12 about to turn 13 in five months.”
Tylan, the son of Tanisha Fitzgerald-Baker and Darret Baker, was 7 when he started playing golf at the Wee Course at Williams Creek. He was 10 when he took on his first job, restaurant work at Jackie’s Dream, 11 when he worked at Stop N Go Market.
Meanwhile, the rising Holston Middle School seventh grader is a brand-new member – a “mentee” – of 100 Black Men of Greater Knoxville, has found time to usher at Tabernacle Baptist Church and to fit in basketball, football and baseball, although he says he’s pretty much done with baseball.
“I quit when I found out that playing baseball can mess up your golf swing…”
That swing is the thing for Tylan, who has been named to the PGA Junior League All-Star Team. He’s anxious to get started, even though school is starting. His mom is a little concerned that the tournament schedule could conflict with Tylan’s perfect attendance record at school, she but figures that there are ways to accommodate both goals.
Tylan says the perfect attendance record goes back to when he was 3. “And I plan on continuing it,” he said. “There were some days I don’t want to get out of bed and want to sleep late, but we always made it on time.”
Fitzgerald-Baker smiled. “We’ve come close some days,” she said. “But that’s nine years of not missing a day or being late.”
It probably goes without saying that he’s an honor roll student. He loves STEM classes, has a natural aptitude for mechanical stuff, and was the only kid to beat the robot while playing Connect Four at the Denso exhibit at Austin-East High School’s College and Career Activity Day.
“That robot has a 99.9 percent chance of defeating a human,” his mother said. “He though he might have messed up his move, but we saw that he had the robot two ways. It didn’t even take a minute. That’s when I started thinking, ‘Hey.’”
Tylan is torn between wanting to be a doctor and wanting to study mechanical engineering, and would like to figure out a way to do both – and maybe be a golf pro, too.
His mother, who was class valedictorian when she graduated from A-E, is Project Grad’s College and Career Access leader and has a radio show on WJBE called “Talking With T.” She is acutely aware of her son’s potential.
“He hasn’t grown up in a life of privilege, other than having two involved parents,” she said. “And it’s a parent’s greatest joy to know your child is going be OK. His speaking skills, confidence and abilty to interact with people have grown so much, and I tell him, ‘With talent comes responsibility.’ He has an opportunity to show what the young African American male can do.”