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14-year-old finishes 12 over, proves he belongs

2:56 PM, Apr 14, 2013   |    comments
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USA Today - When the week began, skeptics wondered whether Guan Tianlang belonged in the Masters. Sure, he had earned his invitation fair and square by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur, but at age 14 - and without the length to take on Augusta National like the rest of the field - there were questions about whether the experience might overwhelm him.

Instead, Guan's Augusta debut was a triumph. Not only did he make the cut, he finished as the low amateur and posted a respectable 12 over par for the tournament after a 75 on Sunday.

"It's such a great week for me, and I enjoyed it and learned a lot," Guan said.

Though Guan's lack of distance off the tee was a major disadvantage - he is 14, after all, and weighs 135 pounds - he somehow got around 72 holes without recording anything worse than bogey. Guan also finished without a three-putt for the entire tournament. Combined with his other experiences this week - playing a practice round with Tiger Woods, for instance - it was a smashing success.

"I think the first couple rounds, I played pretty good," Guan said. "I feel a little bit tired today. So yeah, there's still a lot of things to improve. My short game's good but still need to be better. My driver probably needs to be longer. Yes, I mean, everything needs to improve."

Guan was vague when asked about his plans for the rest of this summer. He said Saturday he will likely try to qualify for the U.S. Open and is exempt until the final stage of qualifying for the British Open by virtue of his Asia-Pacific Amateur win in November. Guan, of course, will also aim to defend his title and get back to Augusta next year.

But exactly where he goes from here, and when he returns to China, remains uncertain - especially given his new status as an international star.

"Before the Masters, we are probably going back next week," Guan said. "But we have a lot of - a couple invitations for me. So we have to consider what to play, what not. (We) didn't make the schedule yet."

As far as professional aspirations, Guan said he's in no rush. Though it's more common among the Asian players in women's golf to turn pro as teenagers, it appears he won't go that route for quite awhile.

"It won't be too early because there's still a lot of things to learn, to improve," he said. "So nothing to rush."

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