While most 14-year old boys are busy worrying about texting girls, calling girls, Facebooking girls, or really just girls in general, Guan Tianlang faces a far more cruel dance over the weekend.
At 14 years and five months come Thursday’s tee time, Tianlang will be far and away the youngest to ever compete in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National. Matteo Manassero was 16 when he first appeared in the Tourney in 2010.
Not that the Chinese native is at all fazed by his surroundings. According to USA Today, Tianlang has already been in Augusta, Georgia for three weeks and he has played the course seven times.
On one of those occasions, he worked with two-time winner Ben Crenshaw, who came away extremely impressed by the very young man’s ability.
“He is the nicest boy. Trust me, he’s a lot more mature than 14,” Crenshaw told the newspaper. “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.”
At 5-foot-8 and 125 pounds, Tianlang still has a ways to go in his physical maturation process. Of course, it did not hurt to be able to play the back-9 at Augusta with one of the modern game’s original prodigies, Tiger Woods.
As for Woods, who first played in the Masters himself when he was 19 (the same age a Jack Nicklaus’ first appearance), the legend is amazed by the fact that Tianlang has even come this far.
“He’s not even in high school. He’s in middle school. And he’s in the Masters,” said Woods, who passed along some tips about the golf course and certain pin placements. “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,” said Woods, 37, who met Guan three years ago on a trip overseas to promote golf to youngsters. Woods remembers the meeting and said “the kid” had a great swing then. “I mean, that’s just frightening.”
What’s frightening is how many Tour victories this young potential superstar might have when it’s all said and done. While not even he expects to do much this time around, the golfing world is absolutely his oyster, and he knows it. Thus, Tianlang is smart enough not to put the pressure of the entire golf world onto his shoulders too early.
“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,” he said. ” … 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.”
If Tigers Woods is frightened by this teenager’s ability, the rest of us should be excited. The only thing better than watching the dominance of a true international superstar such as Tiger is watching two mammoths of their chosen sport duke it out relentlessly.
The ease and maturity with which the 14-year old goes about his day is, indeed, scary for the rest of the professional golfers on tour.
Could Tiger be looking at his ultimate challenger? Only time (and added maturity) will tell.
Photos via Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports