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Updated Monday, November 5, 2012 at 12:46 AM

14-year-old Guan earns berth in Masters | Golf

By DOUG FERGUSON
The Associated Press

Guan Tianlang is an eighth-grader from China who barely weighs 125 pounds and doesn't hit the golf ball far enough to reach some par-4 holes in regulation. A future stop for the 14-year-old prodigy will be the Masters, where he will tee it up in April with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson at Augusta National in Georgia.

Guan completed a wire-to-wire victory Sunday in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, making a 5-foot par putt on the final hole at Amata Spring Country Club that put him in the Masters. He will be 14 years, 5 months, 17 days old when the 2013 Masters begins April 11 — by far the youngest player in tournament history.

Italian Matteo Manassero is the youngest who has competed in the Masters; he teed off in the 2010 tournament 11 days before turning 17.

Guan, who uses a belly putter, closed with a 1-under-par 71 for a 15-under 273 total.

Cheng-Tsung Pan, a University of Washington sophomore from Taiwan, shot a 65 to finish second. After a first-round 75, Pan had 67s in the second and third rounds. He is the second-ranked amateur in Asia.

Of earning a trip to the Masters, Guan said, "I'm really excited about it. I will be training maybe a little bit harder and get some more power for that because I'm still growing right now. So it will be great fun."

Woods might have seen this coming.

Two years ago, Woods was playing in the HSBC Champions pro-am at Sheshan International in Shanghai when Guan was in a group of juniors who played with him on the par-3 17th hole. Woods was amazed that day, not only at the polished swing of a 12-year-old, but the poise Guan showed at performing on such a stage — more than 1,000 people in the gallery, an audience that included Woods, a 14-time major champion.

Even with a spot in the Masters on the line, Guan didn't flinch. He needed a par on the final hole.

Guan hits the ball about 250 yards off the tee, and even a 3-wood for his second shot left him short of the green. He had made bogey twice on the 18th.

"I think about it (the Masters) a little bit at the last hole, but I'm trying not to get it in my mind," Guan said. "So just want to focus on my game.

"I got a little bit nervous on the last putt because that's the winning putt. But I just do my own routine and everything is good."

In June, Andy Zhang of China — 14 years and 6 months — became the youngest player to take part in the U.S. Open.



Guan Tianlang




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