Typically adults are better than kids at most sports, but you could argue that’s not the case in diving (smaller bodies = less splash), gymnastics (younger athletes = more flexible) and now you can add golf to the list – or at least golf in China.
First there was 14-year-old Andy Zhang who gained a last-minute entry into the 2012 US Open as second alternate after Brandt Snedeker and Paul Casey both withdrew through injury. Then there was 13-year-old Guan Tianlang who played in last year’s China Open, a European Tour event, and will tee off at the Masters next week at the ripe old age of 14. And now there is Ye Wocheng, a 12-year-old who will next month break Guan’s record as the youngest to play on the European Tour.
Bold prediction: Guan won’t win the Masters, but he won’t embarrass himself. Given that he drives the ball about 100 yards short of some of the others, it would be a phenomenal performance just to finish above the bottom 10 in the field, let alone make the cut. But the kid’s got game: his 2-under-par 70 in the second round of last year’s Australian Open was bettered by only 15 players in a field of more than 150.
He’s also been having a whale of time gearing up for it, hanging out with Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler during practice rounds at Augusta, and lining up practice rounds with Tom Watson and Nick Faldo for next week’s schedule.
He even posted his first tweet this week, saying how nice everyone had been to him, but quickly deleted it when he realized his picture was upside down.
Meanwhile, Zhang’s aim is to make the US Open again this year, and he’s been helped in his quest by invitations over the past 12 months to tournaments such as the Korea Open, the European Masters in Switzerland and the Australian Open.
But youngest of the lot is Ye, who qualified for next month’s China Open with ease, winning one of three qualifying spots at a tournament in Chengdu, despite drawing a two-shot penalty with three holes left to play.
Ye’s response? “I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a boy.” The world’s response? “But you’re still a boy!”
The trio of youngsters probably won’t win a tournament between them for a few years yet, but, if the Junior World Golf Championships is any guide, expect an Asian invasian soon: last year, 11 out of 12 age groups at the finals in San Diego were won by Asians or players of recent Asian descent. The year before it was nine.
Alright, so the adults are still better than the kids in golf, but maybe not for much longer. The girls have already made a breakthrough, now it’s time for the boys to do the same. And while we’re on the topic, this video of swimmer Michael Phelps playing golf in China is worth a look.