If you have been following The Masters from Augusta, Georgia, you probably have been amazed not by names like Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, or Phil Mickelson, but rather by the wonderful story of 14-year-old Tianling Guan from China. Amazingly, the “young” golfer made the cut and is the youngest player in the history of The Masters.
Guan’s still learning English, but he said rather clearly to the press, “I want to win a major and hopefully I can win the four majors in one year.” If you are chuckling about this, please note that Guan is quite serious about hitting a Grand “Guan” Slam, no doubt before he hits the ripe old age of 20.
Those of us of a certain age can remember the golden age of golf, when names like Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus defined an era and what great golfers would be like for generations to come. Those men were of their time, and now we see someone like Palmer (83) watching Guan and thinking of a whole new era in the sport.
In between golf’s Mount Rushmore of Player-Palmer-Nicklaus and the emerging Guan is Tiger Woods, who continues to define his era and no doubt is the guy Guan wants to supplant one day. Woods (38) has no peers such as the greats in the past; he is up on his own peak, the Mount Everest of golf where he stands apart with no one even close to his ability.
Despite Woods’ personal problems, he is the Babe Ruth of golf, swinging his way into fame and fortune. Tiger attracts the fans like no other golfer and gets people watching on TV. The endorsements are coming back his way now, and what other pro golfer wouldn’t want to be standing in Woods’ Nikes right now?
Maybe that would be Guan. Clearly, the young man has his eyes on the prize – if not the green jacket – somewhere down the road. Guan has the poise, skills, and determination to keep focus, and he knows what possibilities await him. His talent has been evident and impressive (a putt from the fringe on 18 that rolled in for a birdie is a prime example). Even seasoned guys like Ben Crenshaw (in Guan’s group) are noting his talents, with Crenshaw stating, “He played more like a veteran. That’s what really impresses me!”
So, ladies and gentleman, take note that there’s a new kid in town, with emphasis on kid, and his name is Tianling Guan. Remember that name because maybe he is the future of golf, and perhaps will change the direction of golf the way Mr. Woods did not so long ago. For now, Guan is the best story at The Masters, where Player-Palmer-Nicklaus are just memories, and for now it is a country for a very young man.
Photo credit: guan-guardian.co.uk; woods-people.com