While most eighth-graders were worrying about getting to class on time and turning in their homework on Thursday, 14-year-old Tianlang Guan was worried about competing against Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia in the world’s most prestigious golf tournament.
Actually, to call him worried wouldn’t be correct. That assumption – just because he is the youngest player to ever compete at the Masters, or any major championship – can be thrown out now, after he shot a 1-over opening round of 73. Guan ended the day one stroke behind Rory McIlroy and and just three behind Tiger himself.
Amazingly, the young man from China sidelined his nerves for the day after he hit a picturesque drive off Augusta National’s first tee. And from there, he looked like he belonged on one of golf’s most storied courses and on one of its biggest stages.
“I felt a little bit nervous on the first tee,” Guan said, according to ESPN.com. “But I hit a great tee shot and, after that, everything feels comfortable. … I just had fun today. Pretty much fun.”
For at least one day at Augusta, the talk was not about the leaders (who were Sergio Garcia and Marc Leishman at -6 by the way), but about a boy hanging tough with the best players in the world.
“I’m telling you, he played like a veteran today,” two-time Masters champ Ben Crenshaw said. “Played a beautiful round of golf. He stays well within himself. He’s very confident and, obviously, beautiful hands. His thought process never got rushed. Very patient. Very, very, very impressive.”
Guan was the biggest topic of discussion in the gallery as well. He quickly amassed a large following, which included many kids his own age or younger, who would run ahead to find a spot to watch his next shot.
Of course, his biggest fans were his friends and family, who were right alongside to cheer him on. Understandably, they received a fair amount of attention as well and fielded a lot of questions about Guan’s professional aspirations.
When asked if his son would turn professional, Guan’s father Han Wen answered, “Not for a long time, maybe. Amateurs have fun. Enjoy it.”
He’s definitely seemed to be enjoying himself on Thursday and he hopes to make the cut, but as far as competing for the championship, Guan was realistic about his chances, saying he probably wouldn’t win this year. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have confidence in his burgeoning potential.
“But I think I can win in the future,” he said, flashing a smile.