Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old star from China, is headed to the Masters next April after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship Sunday, shooting a final-round 71 to win by one stroke.
Guan entered the day with a two-stroke lead over Australian teenager Alex Gross, after having a five-stroke lead through 36 holes. The lead diminished as Pan Cheng-tsung of Chinese Taipei was able to shoot 65 to get within one stroke of Guan.
Headed into the 477-yard par-4, the middle school sensation used a 3-wood for his second shot to reach the green. He finished the hole off by using his belly putter to nail a 5-footer for par to beat Cheng-tsung by one stroke at Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand.
Guan expressed his jubilation on winning the tournament and being the youngest player to play at the Masters when he spoke to reporters afterwards.
“I’m so excited,” Guan said afterward. “I’m really happy to become the youngest player at the Masters and looking forward to going there. I don’t know what’s going to happen there, but I know I just want to do well.”
Matteo Manassero of Italy was 16 when he played in the 2010 Masters by virtue of winning the 2009 British Open.
The Masters will not be the first tournament that Guan has been the youngest competitor to appear in during his young career. Earlier this year the 13-year-old played in the China Open which is a European Tour event.
Guan is electrified to be playing in the Masters, but besides trying to make the cut and win the tournament, he hopes to be able to have some practice rounds with Tiger Woods. He has met Woods twice in China, once at a pro-am for the HSBC Champions in 2010 and when he was a part of junior outing a year later.
The win has also solidified Guan with an exemption into the year’s first major and into the finals of International Final Qualifying for the Open Championship.
Gross finished third, shooting a final round 72 while Asia’s No. 1-ranked amateur Hideki Matsuyama of Japan finished fourth
Gross summed up the play of Guan by saying he was “too young to be intimidated”.