What’s the coolest thing you did when you were 14 years old? No matter what your answer may be, the chances are that Tianlang Guan likely has you beat. The 14 year-old amateur from China will be playing in The Masters this week, thanks to his victory at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. At 14 years, five months and 17 days (when play begins), he will be the youngest competitor in the storied history of The Masters. Prior to Guan, Matteo Manassero held the title when he played Augusta National at the age of 16.
Since 2008, the event has provided free admission to children between the ages of eight and 16, while Augusta National is also responsible for the creation of the event that allowed Guan to qualify for the first major championship of the season. Chairman Billy Payne saw the purpose of that particular event as a way to aid “the development of amateur golf for the purpose of creating heroes and legends among the representative countries and establishing role models who attract other kids to the game.”
I can’t even imagine being a part of any professional golf tournament, let alone The Masters, while still in middle school (Guan is an eighth grader). I can’t even fathom it at this point in my life, and it’s been a long time since I was in middle school.
The youngster from China isn’t very long off of the tee (by professional standards), averaging just over 250 yards with his drive. The kid still has quite a bit of filling out to do, and I’d imagine in a few years he will be right in line with the pros as far as driving distance is concerned. The fact that he’s going to be forced to hit longer clubs into the tricky greens at Augusta means that his short game is going to have to be rock solid all week if he hopes to the make it to the weekend.
I would love to see Guan make the cut and play over the weekend. Regardless of the outcome, I hope he at least makes a good showing and doesn’t let the moment get too big for him. If he is lucky, he will have people in his corner reminding him to take in the experience, as it’s not something that most people get to do in their lifetime.