Home' Australian Golf Digest : December 2017 Contents ICTORY by Lin Yuxin and the
performance of China was the storyline
from the ninth staging of the Asia-Pacific
Amateur Championship at Royal Wellington Golf
Club. Four Chinese amateurs finished in the top-
five placegetters, topped by the 17-year-old left-
hander from Beijing.
On the Thursday, Fox Sports’ Paul Gow had
singled out Lin as the player to beat in Wellington.
Having observed his powerful ballstriking and
penetrating trajectory on the range, Gow felt the
schoolboy ranked No.338 on the World Amateur
Golf Ranking had the game to win the most
coveted tournament in the Asia-Pacific.
And so it proved. Lin accumulated 22 birdies
and two eagles over 72 holes. He finished three
clear of runner-up Andy Zhang despite seven
bogeys, a double and a triple. He was the third
player in Asia-Pacific Amateur history to shoot
four rounds in the 60s, joining Hideki Matsuyama
(the winner in 2010) and Cameron Smith (fourth
in 2011). Both have since firmly established
themselves as professionals, ranking fourth
and 89th on the Official World Golf Ranking,
However, one significant victory is no guarantee
of long-term success. On the Saturday I wandered
over to the practice putting green. T wo players
who missed the cut were there working on their
games. I had met one of them six years earlier
at the Aaron Baddeley International Junior
Championship in Qingyuan (a relatively small
Chinese city with a population of 3.7 million).
After seeing him win that tournament with a
cross-handed putting grip, I wrote: “I think I’ve
seen the future of golf. He is 13 years of age. He is
Asian – and Chinese. His name is Guan Tianlang.”
The following year Guan was a surprise winner
of the Asia-Pacific Amateur at Amata Spring near
Bangkok. He surprised even more pundits when
he made the cut at the 2013 Masters, becoming
the youngest player ever – at 14 – to make the cut
in a US PGA Tour event. He did so even with a
one-shot penalty for slow play in the second round.
Such was his proficiency with an anchored belly
putter, Guan didn’t have a three-putt for the entire
week at Augusta where he tied for first in putts per
round with 27.
Guan turned 19 on the eve of the Asia-Pacific
Amateur at Royal Wellington. On the Friday I
came across him at the first green where he had
left his approach just short of the putting surface.
He hit a poor chip and then missed an eight-footer
for par. Guan’s body language – frustrated and
dejected – was a world away from the composed,
purposeful young lad in Qingyuan.
Intrigued as to what had transpired since, I
loitered around the practice putting green on
the Saturday, standing 25 metres away from
Guan on the other side of a white picket fence. He
had planted a set of tees through which he was
attempting to hole six footers (not dissimilar to the
putt he had missed on Friday).
Standing directly on the through-line, I waited
to watch him hit a putt. I waited. And I waited.
After a minute or so, Guan stopped and walked
over to his bag and sipped on a bottle of water.
After another minute he walked back onto the
green and crouched down. He picked up a ball,
lined it up and ... then put it down and picked up
his phone and started playing with it.
I was watching Guan. He knew I was watching
him. And I knew that he knew I was watching him.
This all took three or four minutes, upon which I
walked away to leave the young man in peace.
How did it come to this? So perturbed by others
watching his every move. It was tempting to draw
a parallel with Ian Thorpe, a teenage superstar
who became troubled, indeed tortured, by the
burden of expectation.
Guan has slipped to 1,993th on the WAGR. He
is no longer able to use an anchored belly putter.
And he hasn’t benefitted from a growth spurt that
would enable him to overpower golf courses like so
many amateur rivals.
Ritchie Smith, the Perth-based coach of Minjee
and Min Woo Lee (the only brother and sister to
win the US Junior titles), suggested Guan is burnt
out. The first thing Smith would have him do is
hit some flop shots with a lob wedge, reasoning it
would loosen him up.
After all, the home-schooled only child has
been playing since age 4 when his dad, a former
doctor and fanatical golfer, took him to a driving
range. Guan learnt about the game by watching
professional golf on TV. He’s now a freshman at
the University of Arizona and finished 77th in his
first collegiate start.
I hope he rediscovers the confidence that
propelled him to such early success. But for the
time being, Guan Tianlang is a cautionary tale
that not all that shines brightly will shine forever.
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Guan Tianlang: a
cautionary tale of
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