By Nancy Armour
The Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Guan Tianlang put off his homework for a few hours, grabbed the snack his mom had made and went out to play with his friends.
His playground was Augusta National and the world had tuned in to watch the 14-year-old from China, the youngest player ever to tee it up at the Masters and youngest at any major in 148 years.
That’s some play date.
“I felt a little bit nervous on the first tee,” Guan said. “But I hit a great tee shot and, after that, everything feels comfortable. ... I just had fun today. Pretty much fun.”
Played great, too.
Guan made a 15-footer from off the fringe to birdie his final hole Thursday, finishing with a 1-over 73. As the ball rolled into the cup, the crowd around 18 gave the teenager a standing ovation, with two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw leading the cheers for his young playing partner.
“I’m telling you, he played like a veteran today,” Crenshaw said. “Played a beautiful round of golf. He stays well within himself. He’s very confident and, obviously, beautiful hands. His thought process never got rushed. Very patient. Very, very, very impressive.”
He wasn’t the only one who was impressed. The same “wow” murmurs could be heard on every hole, as fans marveled at the eighth grader.
“It makes me feel a little lousy,” 15-year-old Daniel Thrailkill said sheepishly. “I do (play). I can’t play as good as him, though.”
About the only person who didn’t seem impressed with Guan was Guan himself. He strode onto the first tee with confidence, shaking hands with Crenshaw and Matteo Manassero, who three years ago, at 16, became the youngest person to make the cut at Augusta National, and their caddies.
He gave a long look down the fairway before taking a few warm-up swings, then stepped up to the tee and let it rip.
At 5-foot-9 and about 150 pounds, he doesn’t hit it anywhere close to the big guys. But he rarely strayed from the fairway, and his short game more than makes up for what he lacks in length.
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