Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese prodigy who led for the first three rounds of the fourth Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand, has revealed a similar drive and ambition to his idol, Tiger Woods.
“I want to win a major soon after I turn pro,” Guan said at Amata Spring Country Club, where he’s bidding to become the first Chinese to win the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship.
“Tiger’s my idol. He has a big heart and it’s really good for me to learn how he became the world’s best player,” added ‘Langlang’, who in April became the youngest player to ever compete in a European Tour event when he teed up at the China Open.
Guan, who only turned 14 on October 25, has often spoken of his desire to emulate – and even better – the achievements of Woods and draws strengths from the pair’s two meetings in China.
Guan, who lives with his parents in Guangzhou, first saw Woods in November 2005 when his parents took the then seven-year-old to watch the 2005 HSBC Champions in Shanghai. It was just months after Guan had finished fourth in the 6-and-under division of the Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego, USA.
The talented youngster finally met Woods in person in November 2010 when he was invited to play the par-three 17th with his idol at the HSBC Champions pro-am in Shanghai.
The confident Guan rejected the blue tees designated for amateurs and asked to join Woods in hitting off the 212-yard black tee. The then 12-year-old nailed a three-wood to 10 feet. Woods, who hit a four-iron to eight feet, was understandably impressed.
In April 2011, Guan met the 14-time major winner for a second time at the Nike Golf Junior Championship at Mission Hills in Guangdong, where Guan won the tournament and received the trophy from his idol.
“I played pretty well the first time I played with him in Shanghai and he recognised me at Mission Hills, which was really nice. He talked to me a lot, asking me many questions. It was really good,” said Guan, who trains in California most summers.
Three months after his second meeting with Woods, Guan showed he was a future world-beater when he romped to an 11-stroke victory in the 11-12 division at last year’s Junior World Golf Championships.
Guan, who then became the youngest ever winner of the China Amateur Open last November, is now focused on a victory in Thailand that would earn him a place at the Masters – and perhaps a third meeting with Woods …
Guan is congratulated by his idol, Tiger Woods, after winning the Nike Golf Junior Championship on April 13, 2011. The pair are flanked by Scott Hull (left), Nike Golf Greater China General Manager, and Cindy Davis, Nike Golf Global President. Photo: Courtesy of Nike Golf.