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Guan aims to improve his game

Updated: 2013-11-06 07:01
By Wang Zhenghua in Shanghai ( China Daily)

Teenage prodigy has sights set on Rio Olympics

Chinese golf sensation Guan Tianlang said he would focus on continuing to improve his game after failing to retain his Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship title last month and missing an automatic invitation to the US Masters.

The Guangzhou schoolboy had expressed the desire to qualify for next year's Masters by winning the Asian amateur title on home soil in Nanshan, Shandong province, but finished in eighth place.

Guan, who recently turned 15, sent shockwaves at this year's Masters at Augusta National in April when he became the youngest player to make the cut at a major tournament.

At a Monday news conference for the Gary Player Invitational tournament, which raises money for AIDS orphans in underprivileged areas of China, Guan said he was disappointed with his performance in Nanshan.

"Every golfer looks forward to playing in the US Masters. Now I will focus on improving myself, and try to compete well in several events at the end of this year," he said.

Guan aims to improve his game

Guan said he doesn't have any plans to turn professional in the short term, but definitely has his sights set on the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - the first time golf will be at the Games since 1904.

"There is still some time to the 2016 Games. It's every athlete's dream to take part in the Olympics and represent his or her country," Guan said. "I will be very happy if I work hard and gain the opportunity to do that."

Guan, who won the Asia-Pacific title by a single stroke in Thailand last November, wowed the golf world at Augusta in April by shooting rounds of 73, 75, 77 and 75 for 58th place. He also made the cut at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans later in the month.

Most recently, the Chinese prodigy beat world No 1 Tiger Woods and No 6 Rory McIlroy in a closest-to-the-pin competition during an exhibition showdown with the stars at Mission Hills, Haikou, Hainan Island, on Oct 28.

Guan said he gleaned a lot from the seasoned pros during the event.

"I have talked with Tiger Woods many times there is a lot of communication between he and I," he said.

"My good fortune helped me win the challenge, but I learned a lot from him."

Guan said the biggest thing he has picked up from the likes of Woods and McIlroy was seeing how the world's best players compete, practice and lead their lives.

"Taking part in events like the US Masters also helps me to improve," he said.

"It helped me with my confidence, technique and physical training."

On the subject of the Gary Player Invitational, the teenager said he was taught early in life to care for others and help those in need.

Guan donated 1,000 yuan ($160) to residents hit by the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008 and helped raise money for victims of another earthquake, in Ya'an, Sichuan province, this year.

"I am very happy that Mr. Gary Player invited me to the charity program," he said.

"It's a very meaningful activity and I hope it can help my countrymen who have been afflicted by HIV/AIDS in Yunnan province."

Player, the legendary South African golfer, described Guan's Masters performance as "miraculous."

The South African said Guan sets a good example for young people around the world through both his talent and his modest demeanor.

"I have been a golf professional for 60 years, and I have never seen anything like that," he said of Guan's run at Augusta.

"I said to my friends that if he was my son I would not let him play because he's so young and the course (at Augusta) is so tough," Player said.

"(What Guan achieved) is the greatest achievements a person from China has made in sport better than any gold medals," he said.

"The whole world saw it and talked about it."

Seven months after the Masters, Player said he still felt it was unfair that Guan was hit with a penalty for slow play.

"Other players in the tournament also played slow, but they never received a penalty," he said.

"I was watching them on the TV and I was timing them. So what they did to Guan was wrong."

Following the Masters, Guan made the cut again at the New Orleans event, which stunned Player.

"In two weeks, at the age of 14, he beat 140 of the best players in the world!

"You will never see that happen again."

 Guan aims to improve his game

Legendary golfer Gary Player and Chinese teen golf sensation Guan Tianlang (left) attend a clinic presented by Coca-Cola in Shanghai on Monday. At a charity gala later, the opportunity of playing golf with Guan was auctioned for 405,000 yuan ($66,420). Photo Provided for China Daily

(China Daily 11/06/2013 page23)

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