Newly crowned Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion Guan Tianlang aims to emulate his hero Tiger Woods when he takes part in International Final Qualifying (IFQ) for The Open Championship next year.
The 14 year old Chinese prodigy has met Woods on two occasions in China and said he has been inspired by the three-time Open champion. At the weekend he became the youngest winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship earning a place in IFQ for The Open next March and qualification for the Masters in April.
Guan held off the challenge of Pan Cheng-tsung from Chinese Taipei as he posted a one under par 71 in the final round at the Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi, Thailand to finish on a 15 under par total of 273. Guan coolly holed a five foot putt on the last green to secure a one shot victory and clinch the trophy.
Guan said his ambition is to follow in Woods’ footsteps and win a Major championship as soon as possible after he turns professional. “Tiger’s my idol. He has a big heart and it’s really good for me to learn how he became the world’s best player,” he said.
Guan first saw Woods play at the 2005 HSBC Champions in Shanghai and then met him in November 2010 when he was invited to play the 212 yard par three 17th with him at the HSBC Champions’ pro-am. Guan played from the same back tees as Woods and found the green ten feet from the hole, only two feet further away than Woods’ ball. In April 2011, Guan met the 14-time major winner for a second time at the Nike Golf Junior Championship at Mission Hills in Guangdong, where Guan won the tournament and received the trophy from his idol.
“I played pretty well the first time I played with him in Shanghai and he recognised me at Mission Hills, which was really nice. He talked to me a lot, asking me many questions. It was really good,” said Guan.
Guan will become the youngest competitor in the history of the Masters at 14 years, five months and 17 days breaking the record set by Matteo Manassero in 2010, when the 16-year-old earned an invitation after winning the previous year’s British Amateur Championship.
Guan will not hold that distinction for The Open Championship should he qualify next July however. The youngest known competitor in golf’s oldest Championship is Tommy Morris Junior who played in 1865 at the age of 14 years, 4 months and 25 days.
The Guangzhou-based schoolboy weighs only 125 pounds and only turned 14 on October 25. He played some excellent golf to post scores of 66, 64 and 72 and take a two shot lead over Australia’s Oliver Goss going in to the final round. Showing calmness under pressure he notched birdies at the 2nd and 4th holes, as Goss fell back with a double bogey, to extend his lead to five shots. He slipped up with bogeys at the 7th and the 9th but recovered with birdies at the 11th and the 14th.
Pan, who is Asia’s second highest player in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR), made a charge with a final round 65 to put Guan under pressure. The Chinese Taipei star birdied the first, had a hat-trick of birdies from the 4th to the 6th and bogeyed the 9th. He started the back nine with four straight birdies, before his charge was again halted by a bogey on the 14th, but he responded with another birdie at the 15th before coming home with three straight pars.
“Pan really did a good job, so I just needed to focus on my game and get some more birdies and keep going,” said Guan. “I knew Pan had a really good front nine, so I was checking the scores a bit on the back nine. I just thought if I got a couple more birdies I would be the champion.”
Goss shot 72 to finish third at 12-under, two ahead of two-time champion Hideki Matsuyama, Asia’s highest ranked amateur, who carded a 68.
Guan, who plays at Lion Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, was the youngest winner of the China Amateur Open last November, while his appearance in this year’s China Open made him the youngest player to compete on the European Tour.
Organised by the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (APGC), the Masters Tournament and The R&A, the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship is the world’s most televised amateur golf tournament, aired in more than 150 countries.
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