- Associated Press - Sunday, April 14, 2013

AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - No matter what the leaderboard says, Guan Tianlang leaves the Masters a winner.

Making history from the moment he stepped on the first tee Thursday, the 14-year-old made quite an impression on Augusta National. He finished the week without a double bogey, and never had a three-putt. (Not one that counted, anyway, though Guan was quick to point out he had one from off the green.)

With a 75 on Sunday, he finished the tournament at 12-over 300 _ maybe not a threat to the leaders, but not the worst score, either.

Even a slow-penalty that nearly cost him the chance to play on the weekend couldn’t spoil his fun.

“The whole week is great for me,” Guan said. “I really enjoy it. I’m having fun, and hopefully I play some good golf.”

Every day brought a new adventure for the eighth-grader from China, and Sunday was no different. After making birdies on 13 and 16 _ he missed another on 15 when his 3-foot putt skirted the low side of the hole _ his tee shot on 17 landed in a spectator’s bag of souvenirs.

“I heard the sound of the ball hitting plastic and looked down,” said Tom Lowndes, who was crossing the adjacent 15th fairway. “The ball was sitting right there on top of this hat.”

Guan could only laugh when he saw his ball, smiling broadly as he reached into the bag to grab it. He consulted with a rules official _ he’s practically on a first-name basis with the whole crew after his slow play problems _ and eventually took a drop a few yards back and out of the walkway. He went up and over the trees in front of him and landed in the fairway, but his third shot left him 20-plus feet short of the pin.

He got within 2 feet, and tapped in for a bogey.

“It’s all right,” he said. “A bogey (there) is not bad.”

He two-putted from 40 feet to close out his first Masters with a par. Fans around the green gave him a standing ovation, and Guan waved his baseball cap in acknowledgment.

“I’m so happy, I’m so proud of him,” said Guan’s father, Han Wen. “In front of so many patrons, at such a great tournament, he played his game and stayed calm.

“I believe he will come here many times.”

Could be. It isn’t hard to see the polite teen as golf’s next global icon. Fans were captivated by his precocious talent and calm maturity, and his baby face and sweetness _ his mom still packs him snacks _ only added to his appeal.

In what was sure to delight Masters officials _ and anyone else with a stake in the golf game _ there were more shouts of “Jia You!” (Chinese for “Let’s go!”) than “Get in the hole!” Several pockets of Chinese fans trailed Guan, almost all carrying bags stuffed with Masters merchandise.

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