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Chinese youngster Guan has chat with Nicklaus

By Garrett Johnston in Augusta, Georgia | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2013-04-11 22:18

Guan Tianlang was treated to a truly special day, in so many ways, at the iconic Augusta National Golf Club on Wednesday.

He got the privilege of playing in the annual par-three contest with three-time US Masters winner Nick Faldo and 2009 champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina.

But he was also given the unique opportunity, along with his father, Guan Hanwen, and mother, Jenny Liu, to meet Jack Nicklaus at length in the morning and get The Golden Bear's advice on not only competing in his first Masters as an unprecedented 14-year-old but also some life lessons.

On Masters Tuesday, Nicklaus mentioned he was impressed Guan had reached out to him and his manager to meet during this august week in Georgia.

"Fourteen years old. I thought that was pretty sharp," Nicklaus said of Guan's initiative.

The tryst apparently went well.

"It was a nice meeting," Nicklaus said. "He's a nice young man. It was about life, and education and how to help him with his life and where he is going."

An incredible opportunity for young Guan to hear from not only the most successful major champion in golf's history, but also a family-centered 73-year-old grandfather of 22.

"What he did was ask me questions politely and I answered them," Nicklaus told China Daily. "He's going to be a nice gentleman."

Regarding Guan and how he might take on the golf course tomorrow in this phenomenal opportunity, Nicklaus was candid.

"It's going to take him a few times to really learn the golf course," the winner of 18 major titles, including six Masters, said.

At 12:24 am (Beijing time) on Friday, the golfing world was set to witness Guan's history-making debut. Guan has been paired with two-time US Masters champion Ben Crenshaw and the previous youngest player to compete for the coveted green jacket in Italian Matteo Manassero. He was 16 in 2010 when he first played in the Masters.

During the par-three contest on Wednesday, Guan shot a one-over 28 on the short course in the festive event while playing partners Faldo and Cabrera finished at two-under and even-par respectively.

It was a time of fun and enjoyment more than anything else.

Asked if Faldo imparted any last-minute advice on playing the challenging Augusta National course, Guan answered, "Not really, today was more about just having fun".

In the context of that fun, Faldo jokingly asked Guan to help him bend down on the first green to read his birdie putt. Faldo reasoned that it was because he is an "old man". Guan smiled and obliged the former champion's request.

Before Faldo putted, he joked aloud that "it always breaks toward the ocean", a statement which drew a chuckle from the large gallery following the group.

Although he would miss the putt and settle for par, as he and Guan often did on Wednesday, the trio seemed to enjoy its time together on a sunny Georgian afternoon.

Asked what he would take away from his first experience at the par-three event, Guan said: "Just having fun here. It's great … good memories."

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