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Chinese teen Tianlang Guan earns rave reviews in Masters debut

April 11, 2013 - 9:12 pm
JEFF JANOWSKI/STAFF
Tianlang Guan, 14, "… played about four of the most beautiful, delicate pitches you've ever seen," said playing partner and two-time Masters champ Ben Crenshaw.
By Nathan Dominitz |

 

Tianlang Guan’s first round at the Masters Tour­nament does not jump off the leaderboard because he is an amateur tied for 46th at 1-over-par 73.

“Until you look at him,” said Carl Jackson, a caddie for 52 years at the Masters, including 36 years for two-time champion Ben Crenshaw. “It’s a baby over there.”

Tianlang is 14, the youngest competitor in Masters history and, apparently, one of the calmest ones ever.

“He played like a veteran today,” said Crenshaw, who was in his grouping along with Matteo Manassero, the previous youth record holder at 16 in 2010. “He played like a 28-year-old journeyman who’s been around the block and made a ton of cuts. He played a beautiful round of golf.”

The round was a bit of a roller coaster in scoring terms, with bogeys at Nos. 1, 7, 9, 11 and 14, and birdies at Nos. 3, 10, 13 and 18.

“I feel great to play the first round here,” said Tianlang, who is from China and had a translator next to him but answered almost every question in English. “Just a little bit nervous on the first tee, but I hit a great tee shot on it and after that I just felt comfortable.”

Asked whether anything gets him too excited, he said, “Not today.”

“I think I got enough things ready for today, and I just feel comfortable, relaxed this morning,” he said. “So it’s good.”

Tianlang was very good, particularly with chipping and putting.

“He played about four of the most beautiful, delicate pitches you’ve ever seen,” said Crenshaw, 61, praising the teen’s “soft hands,” patience, golf smarts and confident demeanor.

Tianlang answered questions afterward with brevity and humility. A lot about this week has been “great,” including the first round. Playing a practice round with Crenshaw and getting tips were “great,” as was the assistance of his own caddie, local Brian Tam.

Though he thinks winning this year is out of reach, Tianlang believes he can win a future Masters – and more:

“I want to win a major and, hopefully, I can win the four majors in one year.”

Tianlang is among six amateurs in the field, and he had by far the best day. Steven Fox posted 4-over 76. T.J. Vogel and Nathan Smith are tied at 5-over 77. Michael Weaver carded 78, and Alan Dunbar posted 83.

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