By John Strege
On the eve of an 11-year-old, Lucy Li, playing in the U.S. Women’s Open, we are reminded of a 14-year-old who played in the Masters last year and made the cut. Whatever became of Tianlang Guan?
Well, the Chinese teen is doing what seems to be a smart thing, returning to junior golf. Next month, Guan, now 15, will play in the Callaway Junior World Championship on the South Course at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.
It is generally a concern that rushing prodigies along too fast in golf could prove detrimental to their development. Guan played in five PGA Tour events in 2013, making cuts in the Masters (he finished 58th) and the Zurich Classic of New Orleans (71st) and missing cuts in the HP Byron Nelson, Memorial and FedEx St. Jude Classic.
In December of 2013, he missed the cut in the European Tour’s Hong Kong Open. In January, he played in the Sony Open in Hawaii and missed the cut. And in April, he missed the cut in the European Tour’s China Open for the second year in a row.
Guan won the Junior World 11 and 12-year-old division in 2011, and tied for 22nd in the 15 through 17-year-old division in 2012, as a 13-year-old.
Last year, he curiously chose not to play in the Junior World, though he did play a round at Torrey Pines South on one of the tournament’s practice round days. The highlight of that round came when his mother drove the golf cart they were sharing into a bunker adjacent to the 14th green and got it stuck, its spinning wheels digging it deeper into the bunker.
Rob Tysor, a captain with the Fountain Valley (Calif.) Fire Department (shown above with Guan), was playing with Guan and helped him push the cart out of the bunker.
Guan, meanwhile, has been spinning his own wheels in professional tour events, attempting and failing to replicate the magic he had at Augusta National. A return to the junior ranks is likely to give him a more realistic view of where his game stands.