Youngest Player Ever Ready to Play in Masters


Tianlang Guan is an eighth grader in China who, when the tournament starts Thursday, will become the youngest player to ever compete in the Masters.

The 14-year-old qualified for the year's first major golf championship after his win in the Asia Pacific Amateur last November. He's paired in the first two rounds with two-time Masters' champion, 61-year-old Ben Crenshaw, and fellow teenager, 19-year-old Matteo Manassero of Italy.

Manassero had held the youngest-ever player record for the Masters when he was 16 in 2010. The 5'8" 140-pound Tianlang will be 14 years, five months when the tournament starts.

On Monday Tianlang played a morning practice round with Crenshaw and joined four-time Masters' champion Tiger Woods in the afternoon. On Tuesday Tianlang played with two-time green jacket winner, 63-year-old Tom Watson. For Wednesday's Par-3 Contest he'll be paired with another veteran, three-time champion Nick Faldo.

Count Woods and Crenshaw as among those impressed with the youngster. "He's not even in high school. He's in middle school. And he's in the Masters," Woods told reporters. "It's a pretty remarkable story. We had a good time. The kid is 14. And he's good.

"It's frightening to think that he was born after I won my first Masters," added Woods, who met Tianlang three years ago on a trip to China. Woods remembers the youngster, noting "the kid" had a great swing even then. "I mean, that's just frightening.

"To see him hit the ball out there . . . we knew he was going to be good," Woods said. "We didn't think he was going to be in the Masters in two years."

"He is the nicest boy. Trust me, he's a lot more mature than 14," added Crenshaw. "He looks like he has his feet on the ground. When you watch him, watch him approach a shot, watch him concentrate . . . it's fun to watch that. It was just fascinating to see him play. You are going to see lots of him."

Tianlang is spending Masters' week in Augusta National's Crow's Nest, the traditional accommodations situated on the upper floor of the clubhouse reserved for amateur invitees to the Masters.

On Monday, Tianlang met with the media and discussed playing in the biggest tournament of his young life.

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, appreciate you being here, and we are very pleased to have with us here today a very impressive young man, emphasis on young, Tianlang Guan, who won the Fourth Annual Asia Pacific Amateur Championship this past November. He was the youngest player in the field when he won and this ground breaking achievement now makes him the youngest competitor in Masters history at the age of 14. His other achievements include being the youngest player to win on the China Amateur Futures Tour, the China Amateur Tour, and a China Amateur Open. He won the 2011 Junior World Golf Championship with a record 18 under. Before we take some questions for this young man, I would like to ask Tianlang, if you could describe your feelings and impressions of your first competition here at the Masters, how would you describe it.

TIANLANG GUAN: I'm really excited in the morning when I come out on the course and there's many people here and I'm really looking forward to the Tournament.

Q. How long do you drive it on the average and are you going to be long enough to be competitive on this course?

TIANLANG GUAN: I would say I'm not long enough, but I think I'm still all right in this golf course. And I drive a little bit longer in Thailand than here, but I think I'm still all right, not a really serious problem. (Laughter).

Q. Do you feel at all intimidated by where you are and the golfers that you're playing with?

TIANLANG GUAN: I'm not going to say that. But I think it's going to be a little pressure to me, but I'm not going to push myself too hard, and I'm going to enjoy the game so far.

Q. What would you view as a success for you this week?

TIANLANG GUAN: Just enjoy the tournament and play some good shots and just enjoy it, and hopefully I can play well.

Q. Ben Crenshaw told us you texted him to set up a practice round today. Can you talk about why Ben and how was it out there with Ben?

TIANLANG GUAN: This gentleman of my home course is friends with Ben and he told me he want to play with him. And today is great to play with Mr. Crenshaw, and he told me a lot, and we really enjoyed it on the golf course.

Q. Has anything surprised you, and if so, what, since you've gotten here; I know you played yesterday and today.

TIANLANG GUAN: I think it's really beautiful here, but I don't think it really surprise me because I have been here a couple weeks ago. But it will be different during the real tournament. The greens will probably go firmer and probably tougher.

Q. Who else have you arranged to play practice rounds with this week and will you seek out your old friend, Tiger, for a word this week?

TIANLANG GUAN: I'm going to play with Mr. Tom Watson tomorrow. I'll go see Sir Nick Faldo probably today or tomorrow and we are going to play the Par 3 together and probably a couple guys playing with me, I don't know for sure.

Q. I saw you with Ben Crenshaw practice a few times on 13 green. How about the slopes of the green here?

TIANLANG GUAN: The slope is pretty big, and you have to have a pretty good understanding of the green. I think I've been here a long time, so I got - I think I got a feeling for the green.

Q. You've played so much competition already. Do you feel older than 14?

TIANLANG GUAN: No, I don't feel it (laughter). But I want to say, because I have the confidence and I know I can play well. So I'm going to play like myself, so I'm not going to try to do too much things.

Q. When did you arrive, and can you talk about how much time you spent on the golf course on Saturday?

TIANLANG GUAN: Saturday? I've been here almost three weeks, I think. And you're saying Saturday?

Q. Two days ago. I heard you were here a long time on the golf course practicing.

TIANLANG GUAN: No, I'm coming probably 10:00 in the morning, and probably practice through 6:30 or 7:00. But I have lunch and have a rest at lunchtime.

Q. So you were here for the first time three weeks ago, and today was the third time you played the course, you said?

TIANLANG GUAN: No, I played like a couple times a week. I played a couple times a week. I've played here six, seven times.

Q. And was this the most people that you've ever seen on the course for one of your practice rounds?

TIANLANG GUAN: Oh, definitely (nodding)(laughter).

Q. Shanshan Feng said last week that your short game is very good. How much confidence do you have that your short game can carry you through here this week?

TIANLANG GUAN: I think I've still got to practice hard here because this green is pretty tough and it's not the same in China. I think I spent a little more time on it, but I think I can do it well.

Q. Other than spending time here, what do you like doing in America?

TIANLANG GUAN: The people is nice here and the golf course is good. I can practice here really good. I think it's a good place for golfing or for living.

Q. If this is the biggest challenge of your life, and I guess it probably is, what was your biggest challenge in your life before this?

TIANLANG GUAN: I think every tournament is a challenge. Because every time you want to play well, and you have to prepare for it, and hope to do your best.

Q. What's the most important piece of advice Ben Crenshaw gave you today?

TIANLANG GUAN: Just enjoy my game.

Q. You're clearly very committed to your golf, but do you ever get a chance to do things that ordinary 14 year old kids do, and what do you do in your spare time?

TIANLANG GUAN: I will go to school and play other sport a little bit, and like basketball. I don't have too much time, but I enjoy playing golf.

Q. Does it frustrate you sometimes that you don't have time with your friends as much as some?

TIANLANG GUAN: No. (Laughter).

Q. Now you are the center of attention of the whole world, so would you feel embarrassed or pressure if you couldn't play well this week; what are you thinking of that?

TIANLANG GUAN: As I say, I'm not going to push myself too hard, and I'm trying to just enjoy my game, play my best, and hopefully play some good score.

Q. Any school homework that you've been doing recently? Could you tell us about if you have been doing some schoolwork, and what has it been? History, essay or math?

TIANLANG GUAN: I take my homework with me here, and I'll do pretty much all of them but just not too much. (Laughter).

Q. Can you tell us a little bit of detail about something that you've been working on in particular?

TIANLANG GUAN: Pretty much English the most. I'm learning English right now (nodding with a smile) (laughter).

Q. Have you had a chance to talk with Tiger, and if not, are you looking forward to? Will you approach him and speak with him?

TIANLANG GUAN: Not yet, but I think probably we talk, have like a talk. The players here are all great players, so I'm looking forward to speak to any one of them.

Q. What's your favorite hole on the course, and which hole do you think is going to be the hardest?

TIANLANG GUAN: I just say like the whole golf course, and I think that like 12, 13, is I think the most - no, I think it's the most beautiful holes and it's my favorite hole I think. Like No. 1, like 11, play pretty tough but I'm not going to say the toughest. If I play good this hole is all right, but it's going to play tough.

Q. Just wondering where you're staying, if you're staying at the Crow's Nest? TIANLANG GUAN: Yeah, I'm going to stay in the Crow's Nest tonight.

Q. First night?

TIANLANG GUAN: Yeah.

Q. Can you talk about how much Tiger influenced you to take up golf and to play golf as passionately as you are now?

TIANLANG GUAN: I will say when I was probably three or four years old, I was looking at him win the Masters, and it's pretty exciting to watch him. I played with him twice in the past couple years, and he gives me many advice and I will say every time I play with him, I feel a lot better and give myself some confidence and it's very good.

Q. You said 1 and 11 were very tough holes for you. What kind of clubs do you hit into those two greens and what kind of yardage do you tend to have?

TIANLANG GUAN: The first hole, I hit probably would say 190 shot, probably a hybrid. And 11, probably fairway wood or hybrid, like 200 to 220.

Q. China doesn't have a great tradition of producing top golfers. How do you hope to change that and inspire Chinese people to take up golf?

TIANLANG GUAN: I think it's good for Chinese golf, and that more people to know this game, to pick up this game, I think it's really good for it.

MODERATOR: Well, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so very much for being in this historic interview and want to wish you the very best of luck in your first Masters ever.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.

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