Tianlang Guan, the 14-year-old eighth-grade student from China, earned his spot in the 2013 Masters by winning the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand. He became the youngest golfer ever to qualify for the Masters.
He had a pretty good spring break, spending nearly two weeks at Augusta National Golf Club preparing for the tournament and making the cut at the Masters on Friday night.
Guan played practice rounds with Tiger Woods and Ben Crenshaw throughout the week, receiving valuable advice in the process, and was able to learn from the best players in golf. What were you doing when you were 14?
Playing with Ben Crenshaw and Matteo Manassero on Thursday, Guan posted an excellent one-over 73 to put himself in position to make the cut. His round included five bogeys and four birdies.
Bear in mind that Guan weighs in at 120 pounds and only hits the ball around 245 yards in the air with a driver. Augusta National is a big golf course at over 7,200 yards. Many of the holes require long drives into up-slopes that do not allow for any roll. Longer hitters can carry the hills and even get extra yards by landing on downhill slopes in the fairway.
He continued his excellent play on Friday. It rained early in the day, and the wind was a problem for golfers, making the scores considerably higher than on Thursday.
Guan did not make any birdies in his second round but only had bogeys at Nos. 4 and 7 in his first nine holes.
The issue that resulted in a penalty being assessed on No. 17 began at No. 10. Crenshaw, Manassero and Guan had fallen two holes behind the group in front of them. They were informed by Masters rules official John Paramor that they were being placed on the clock for slow play.
Paramor, the chief referee for the European Tour, is an experienced rules official. He was well aware of the ramifications a penalty stroke would create and certainly did not want to be forced to assess the penalty.
He reminded the group that they were being timed again on the par-three 12th hole. Guan received his first excessive time on the next hole, No. 13, and was informed as such.
The problem came at No. 16: It is near the lowest part of Augusta National, and swirling winds can create indecision in pulling the correct club.
Manassero, hitting just ahead of Guan, dunked his shot on No. 16 in the lake, which made the club decision for the teenager even more difficult.
Guan took over five minutes to select a club and execute the shot. This was his second excessive time while being on the clock, which necessarily resulted in the penalty being assessed.
After making par on No. 17, Guan was informed of the assessment of the one-stroke penalty for slow play.
It moved him to three over for his round and four over for the tournament. With Jason Day six under par to lead the Masters, he allowed everyone within 10 shots of the lead to make the cut.
Even with the penalty stoke, Guan’s total of four over par made him the only amateur to make the cut in the 2013 Masters.
To put this into even more focus, defending champion Bubba Watson and former U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover are both in the group at four-over par after 36 holes.
For Guan, at 14 years old, to shoot 73-75—even with a one-stroke penalty for slow play—and to make the cut are very big accomplishments.
Asia is a huge and mainly untapped market for golf. Literally millions of Asian children watching the youthful Guan competing in the Masters will be encouraged to pick up golf clubs for the first time.
Guan has handled this uncomfortable situation with grace and maturity. He has impressed golf fans everywhere with his calm and phenomenal game.
Are we witnessing the arrival of the next Tiger Woods?