Tianlang Guan isn’t old enough to drive on American soil, and he’d certainly be considered a bit young for college. That hasn’t stopped the 14-year-old Chinese golfer from qualifying for the 2013 Masters.
By winning the 2012 Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, Guan became the youngest competitor in Masters history, besting Matteo Manassero from 2010 by more than two years.
Established in 2009, the tournament was given great importance by Augusta National chairman Billy Payne in a Wednesday news conference.
“Guan’s qualification and paricipation in the Masters is an excellent example of why we and the R&A began the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship four years ago, to create heroes in that region who would inspire others to take up the game,” Payne said, later admitting he never thought the tournament would yield a 14-year-old champion.
Given the event’s success, Payne said he and the R&A have been in discussions about attempting similar endeavors in other regions at a later date.
“The success has far exceeded our expectations, and so I think it would not be proper if we did not consider whether we could duplicate that success in other parts of the world,” Payne said.
Watch out for the King
In play at Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest, four-time Masters champion and honorary starter Arnold Palmer saw his shot go a little right at the event’s opening hole.
What he didn’t see was that his ball struck a patron solidly on the arm.
Even though the shot left a visible mark on the patron’s arm, she seemed more focused on getting the legend’s attention than on getting medical attention. Once she made him aware of the issue, Palmer came over for a few kind words and a hug to ease the pain.
Ted Potter Jr., in the field by way of his victory at the Greenbrier Classic, won Wednesday’s Par 3 Contest and will now take on the mantle of becoming the first to win the Masters the same year he won the Par 3 Contest.
Potter, making his Masters debut, won a playoff over Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar. Ernie Els and Nick Watney also qualified but were unavailable.
Only Vijay Singh and Ben Crenshaw have even been able to win the Masters at all once they won the exhibition.
Aces in the hole
Watney and Crenshaw each bagged a hole-in-one in the Par 3 Contest, pushing the all-time number in the event to 77.
Watney’s came on the 135-yard No. 9, and Crenshaw found the bottom of the cup from the tee on No. 7, a 115-yard hole.
In addition to former Secretary of State and Augusta National member Condoleezza Rice and the obvious legendary golfers, several other famous faces were on the grounds of the club Wednesday.
Member Lynn Swan, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was seen near the clubhouse, conversing and snapping pictures with fellow members and patrons.
Also near the clubhouse was women’s golf great Annika Sorenstam, who won 93 times as a professional, including 10 majors in a 16-year pro career. Rounding out the celebrity group was Caroline Wozniacki. The former world No. 1 in women’s tennis was on the bag for boyfriend Rory McIlroy in the Par 3 Contest.
Jeremy Timemrman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.