Teen scene: Guan joins long list of golf phenoms

By Doug FergusonApril 23, 2013, 10:35 pm

There was a time when a 14-year-old on the PGA Tour would be considered big news.

It's starting to feel like old news.

Tianlang Guan tees it up on Thursday at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, which must feel like a significant step down from where he was two weeks ago. He played practice rounds at Augusta National with Tom Watson and Tiger Woods. He played in the Masters alongside Ben Crenshaw. He was in Butler Cabin when Adam Scott first slipped on the green jacket. Guan was the low amateur.

The emphasis should be on the Chinese teen's performance – the youngest to play 72 holes in a major, nothing worse than a bogey all week, no three-putts on some of the fastest, most frightening greens in golf – and not on his birth certificate.

Age is just a number.


Video: Teen dream and Dufnering at Zurich Classic


Teenagers have been dotting the professional golf landscape for the last decade.

Despite a one-shot penalty for slow play on the 17th hole of his second round, Guan still made the cut against a 93-man field at the Masters. Remember, it was only nine years ago when another 14-year-old – Michelle Wie – shot a 68 and missed by one shot making the cut against a 143-man (and one girl) field at the Sony Open.

Morgan Pressel was 13 when she played in the 2001 U.S. Women's Open at Pine Needles, a record that was broken six years later by Lexi Thompson, who was 12. Thompson went on to win an LPGA event when she was 16, a record that was broken last year by 15-year-old Lydia Ko in the Canadian Women's Open.

Ryo Ishikawa was 15 when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup on the Japan Golf Tour, making him the youngest player to win on one of the six major golf tours.

That record still stands.

For now.

Guan has no illusions of winning the Zurich Classic. He spent some three weeks at Augusta National getting ready for the Masters and its 7,435-yard course. Next up is TPC Louisiana, which is 7,341 yards and doesn't typically play as fast. Making the cut won't be as easy as it was at the Masters against a 156-man field with no 10-shot rule.

That's not the only difference, of course.

''The Masters has got a lot of people there,'' Guan said on Tuesday. ''So I just want to play my best this week.''

Is there room for an eighth grader in professional golf? Sure, as long as it's a cameo appearance.

Zurich was among the sponsors of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, which Guan won wire-to-wire last year to earn an exemption into the Masters. Guan also has a connection to the area. He practiced at Lakewood Golf Club last year when he tried to qualify for the U.S. Open. He failed to make it. The youngest at The Olympic Club last summer was another 14-year-old from China, Andy Zhang.

Guan led a junior golf clinic at Lakewood on Saturday, while getting ready for his next PGA Tour event. Still to be determined is how much longer Guan stays in America and whether he will try to qualify for the U.S. Open.

The danger is trying to do too much too soon, though Guan appears to be playing golf for all the right reasons – fun.

That was his goal at the Masters, to make it an enjoyable week, no matter what scores he put on his card. And he had a blast, along with getting in all four rounds. His father said at the Masters that Guan was in no hurry to turn pro because ''amateurs have fun.''

That appears to be the theme in the Big Easy.

''I want to enjoy the week, like in the Masters, and hopefully make the cut,'' he said. ''If not, it's still a great experience. I hope to play good scores out there.''

There are pitfalls to starting too early and facing overwhelming competition. Wie spent her early teens trying to compete against the men, and she showed some promise. She reached the quarterfinals of the men's U.S. Amateur Public Links, and she was in the hunt for a spot in a major on the back nine of U.S. Open qualifying. But she was at her best when she was still in high school.

Ty Tryon made it through all three stages of PGA Tour qualifying in 2001 at age 17, and his career quickly fell apart.

Times are changing, though. Kids are more prone to handle the pressure of the big leagues. Pressel nearly won the U.S. Women's Open when she was 17, and she was still 18 when she won the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Ishikawa, struggling in his first full year on the PGA Tour, has won 10 times in Japan, one of those with a 58 in the final round.

Perhaps it was only appropriate that Guan played the opening two rounds at Augusta with Matteo Manassero, who previously held the record as the youngest to play all four rounds in a major at 16 in the 2009 British Open. Manassero won twice on the European Tour before he turned 18.

Guan already is famous for his remarkable play at the Masters.

Liang Wenchong, who played the Masters in 2008 and tied for eighth in the 2010 PGA Championship, wrote on Guan's Weibo post after he made the cut at Augusta, ''Your future, the future of Chinese golf, the world's No. 1, everything is possible.''

But he's only 14. Who's to say he will even be the best from China when he turns pro?

Whatever happens this week in New Orleans, the attention will shift across the Pacific Ocean next week to the China Open, where the field includes 12-year-old Ye Wocheng. Last month, Ye became the youngest player to qualify for a European Tour event.

His reaction to such an achievement says a lot about this new age of golf when he said, ''I've dreamed of this since I was a boy.''

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


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Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

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Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

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Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

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Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

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Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm