14-year-old Tian­lang Guan will make history

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Tianlang will try to follow in the footsteps of Hideki Matsuyama, who won the Asian Amateur in 2010 and 2011. In two Masters appearances, Matsuyama made the cut both times, finishing as the low amateur with a tie for 27th place in 2011.

Tianlang plans to play practice rounds with Tom Wat­son and Ben Crenshaw, a pair of two-time Masters winners. He will play in the Par-3 Contest with three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo and likely will be paired with a former Masters champion during the first two rounds of the tournament.

He’s still hoping to get in a practice round with Woods.

“It is an honor for me to be able to play with the best golfers in the world,” Tianlang said. “To me, the only goal is to enjoy the event and give my best. And of course, if I can make the cut, that would be even better.”

Tianlang, the son of a doctor (Han Wen) and an engineer (Jenny), picked up golf for fun at age 4. He began playing seriously a few years later, and his game quickly developed.

In 2011, he won his age division (11-12) by 11 shots at the Junior World Golf Cham­pionships in San Diego. In April 2012, he became the youngest golfer to play in a European Tour event, the Volvo China Open. He shot 77-79 to miss the cut.

At the Asia-Pacific Amateur, Tianlang opened with rounds of 66 and 64 to take a five-shot lead. After posting 72 on Saturday, Tian­lang held his game together and took a one-shot lead entering the final hole.

Needing a par on the 477-yard, par-4 18th, he striped his drive down the fairway and hit his second shot short of the green. He pitched his approach five feet past the hole, then dropped the putt for the win and an invitation to the Masters.

“Exciting,” Han Wen said. “We’re very happy for him. His friends, and all the Chinese people, are very happy.”

Golf in China has grown significantly in the past decade, and the China Golf Asso­ciation recently hired Greg Norman as an adviser for its national team. China wants to field a competitive team when golf returns to the Olympic Games in 2016 in Brazil.

Tianlang isn’t alone among budding Chinese stars. Ye Wocheng, 12, qualified for the European Tour’s Volvo China Open in March with rounds of 74 and 68. He will eclipse Tianlang’s record as the youngest person to tee it up in a European Tour event.

Tianlang said last fall after his Asia-Pacific Amateur win that he hoped it would be an inspiration.

“I’m really proud of myself, and I think it really helps Chinese golf and the Chinese golfers,” he said. “They will maybe train even harder and get more people that know about that. So I’m very happy about that.”

If Tianlang wasn’t playing in the Masters, he’d be attending Zhi Xin Middle School. Instead of books, though, he’ll carry his belly putter to his outdoor classroom. Tianlang started using a belly putter in June, and it helped him win the Asia-Pacific Amateur.

No matter how he does on the greens or around the course, Tianlang just wants to soak in everything.

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