I thought I was a pretty good golfer when I was 14. I shot a 75 at Lakewood Golf Club in Point Clear, Alabama and thought I was destined for a professional career. Twenty one years later, as a sports talk show host, and occasional blogger, I watched a 14 year old shoot a 73 at Augusta National Golf Club in the most prestigious tournament in the world.
Clearly my game in the Eighth grade, as well as everyone else's, doesn't measure up to Tianlang Guan's. By winning last year's Asian Pacific Amateur Championship he qualified for The Masters, becoming the youngest participant in the 77 year history of the event (previously Matteo Manassero was the youngest player at age 16 in 2010) . But what amazed me most about this kid on Thursday were his nerves, or lack thereof. Guan's first tee shot at The Masters, in front of thousands of people and millions of viewers, went 290 yards down the middle of the fairway. I was nervous hitting balls on the range at 14, was terrified of the free throw line, and had zero self confidence in front of girls. Meanwhile, Guan said he "wasn't really nervous, but just had a lot of fun" in one of the world's highest profile sporting events.
He was paired with Manassero, now 19, and 61 year old two time Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw. "I'm telling you, he played like a veteran today," Crenshaw said. "He played like a journeyman, a 28 year old journeyman whose been around the block. He played a beautiful round of golf."
Guan's unprecedented day ended with a birdie on the 18th hole, finishing the day tied for 46th at 1 over par. That's better than 11 former major champions fared on Thursday, including defending champion Bubba Watson (75). 53 year old Fred Couples shot a 68, but said Guan's round was far more impressive. "It's crazy," Couples said. "To have that kind of talent and confidence at such a young age is way more remarkable than someone that has played here for more than half their life. That's phenomenal. That's phenomenal stuff."
Who knows what will happen with Guan's career but his debut on the game's biggest stage was a tremendous success. So how will he prepare for day two? "I sleep pretty good," Guan said. "I think I will do pretty much the same way, I will be relaxed and focused on my game. Hopefully I can hit a couple good shots and I will see how things go."
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