Guan makes history in his first Masters
by Al Muskewitz
amuskewitz@annistonstar.com
Apr 14, 2013 | 2643 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Amateur Guan Tianlang, of China, hits off the 11th fairway during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Amateur Guan Tianlang, of China, hits off the 11th fairway during the fourth round of the Masters golf tournament Sunday in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Tianlang Guan isn’t sure when he’s going back to his native China to get on with the rest of his life, but after the biggest week of his young golfing life he does know one thing:

He wants to be back at Augusta National and winning the Masters “as soon as possible.”

It has been an eventful week for the 14-year-old. Consider: He became the youngest player ever in the Masters, the youngest player to play on the weekend in a major, the only player to incur a slow-play penalty in the history of the Masters, and low amateur of the tournament.

He was the only amateur to make the expanded cut.

But Sunday evening, well after signing for a 3-over-par 75 that left him 12-over (300) for the week and visiting the Butler Cabin for post-round ceremonies on CBS, Guan went back to being a teenaged schoolboy.

And that includes homework.

“In China you didn’t take classes, they give you the class,” he said.

Guan was learning lessons of another kind this week.

Throughout the week he drew raves from everyone on the grounds for his playing ability and poise. Most of the players were astonished at how Guan could withstand the pressures of the first major of the season at an age when many of them were either still playing junior tournaments or engaging in some other kind of teenage endeavor.

He went through the week without a three-putt or a double bogey. He made six birdies – four in his opening round and two Sunday. He beat Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell, all top 20 world players who missed the cut.

“He seems to have a good game; short game is very good,” 55-year-old playing partner Sandy Lyle said. “He was a little messy with a few early drives – maybe it was nerves, I don’t know – but he ended up doing OK in the end.”

At no time was his poise tested more than Friday when tournament officials put him on the clock on the back nine and finally assessed him a slow-play penalty that left him dangerously close to missing the cut. He never wavered in meeting with the media after the ruling – the first slow-play penalty assessed on Tour since 1995 – and said he accepted the decision, promising to learn from the experience.

The only time he showed the slightest sign of cracking came late in his post-round news conference Sunday when he appeared to choke up on the question about the best thing about his historic week.

“This is my first time to play in front of all the people here,” he said. “All the patrons, they were really nice to me and I appreciate them coming here watching me. I mean, that’s very nice.”

Just as he’s not sure when he’ll be going back home, Guan isn’t certain what the rest of his season entails. The Asia-Pacific Amateur title that got him here also landed him in a spot in final-stage qualifying for the British Open and a “couple invitations” to events he’s not certain about.

Don’t expect him to turn pro any time soon. Even though he’s from a region of the world where players, especially on the women’s side, turn pro in their teen years, Guan said he wasn’t in any hurry.

“I’ve not decided yet, but it won’t be too early because there are still a lot of things to learn to improve,” he said. “Nothing to rush.”

Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.
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