Chinese golfing prodigy Guan Tianlang made global headlines in April by becoming the youngest golfer ever to make the cut in a major championship, aged just 14. Now at the grand old age of 15, Guan was again competing against the pros last week, this time at the Hong Kong Open.
Past champions have included legends like Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Colin Montgomerie and Rory McIlroy, but the tournament has struggled in recent years and this year’s field included few names recognizable outside the golf circuit. John Daly – Guan’s playing partner – was one of those, and raised a few laughs by noting that when he was 15, he was busy downing 12-packs of beer.
Guan had a stunning start, racing to the top of the leaderboard at -5 through 13 holes, but a disastrous finish left him one over for the round, and poor second round saw him miss the cut. It shouldn’t take anything away from one of the biggest sports stories of the years, but Guan is now firmly on the radar, and for a 15-year-old, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Here’s an extract from this week’s Sports Talk column:
The fear for Guan now comes from the old expression: early ripe, often rotten. There are countless stories of burned-out teens scattered throughout the sports world, and a cursory look through the junior record books shows that those who shine early rarely make it as professionals.
Guan appears to be grounded, largely keeping out of the spotlight after a month-long tour of the professional circuit in the US last spring, but his body is still several years shy of being able to cope physically with competing professionally on a regular basis. After a stellar year, he now needs time to mature, but given that he is no longer the new kid on the block, that’s a luxury he won’t be afforded by the media and its unforgiving glare.