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Guan reflects, looks forward to Asian Am defense

Guan Tianlang
Getty Images

The most talked about teen not named Lydia Ko gets back to work next week when Guan Tianlang defends his title at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, a milestone victory that earned him an invitation to the 2013 Masters and a whirlwind summer on the PGA Tour.

Guan, who finished 58th at the Masters and went 2-for-5 in cuts made on the Tour last season, said in a conference call on Tuesday that he returned home to China stronger and wiser.

“After winning the Asian-Pacific Amateur last year and playing the Masters it gives me more confidence for myself and I can know how the Tour and the Masters runs. I am more confident. I learned so much,” said Guan, who became the youngest player to participate in the Masters and to make a cut on the Tour.

Guan’s week at Augusta National was marred by a slow play penalty on Thursday that cost him a stroke and nearly a weekend tee time at the year’s first major. But even that polarizing ruling didn’t spoil his historic start.

“I respect what they did with me. I respect the referee. It was a really good experience for me, I learned from that and (now) pay more attention to it,” said Guan, who turns 15 next Friday. “I think I should thank (the rules official) for it.”

Guan – who also made the cut in New Orleans but failed to advance to the weekend at the Byron Nelson Championship, Memorial and Fedex St. Jude Classic – said his celebrity status in China helped expose the game to more people in his native country, particularly among juniors.

After the Asian-Pacific Amateur, Guan said he plans to play a charity event in Shanghai in November and is hoping to receive a sponsor exemption into the WGC-HSBC Champions at the end of this month.

Guan also said he has no immediate plans to turn professional and that he traded in his belly putter for a traditional-length model.

“I am back to a normal-length putter. I didn’t think it was that much different. I changed back a month ago,” he said.