Chinese Golfer, 13, Set To Make History

By: CNN (posted by Justin Surrency Email
By: CNN (posted by Justin Surrency Email

(CNN) -- Most 13-year-old boys would be happy to win their local golf club's junior tournament. But Guan Tian-Lang isn't like other boys. The Chinese prodigy is set to make history this week when he smashes the record for the youngest player in a European Tour event.

On Thursday, the world junior champion will tee off at the Volvo China Open at the tender age of just 13 years and 177 days, shattering the record set by Taiwan's Lo Shih-Kai -- who was 103 days older when he played at the 2003 Hong Kong Open.

Guan narrowly missed out in a qualifying event three weeks ago, but a last-minute clearance by the China Golf Association has given the Guangzhou schoolboy the chance join his heroes at Tianjin Binhai Lake Golf Club in an event co-sanctioned with the OneAsia Tour.

He will join an elite 156-man field including Ian Poulter, who finished seventh at this month's U.S. Masters, and the Englishman's fellow Ryder Cup star Paul Casey -- both former top-10 ranked players.

Guan Tian-lang"I really couldn't be happier -- I'm so excited right now," Guan said on the European Tour website.

"I was really disappointed to lose out in the playoff and I thought I'd blown a great chance to make history, but then to find out I'm actually going to play is like a dream come true."

But the talented teen isn't just happy to play -- he wants to create more history by making the halfway cut. His compatriot Jason Hak was 14 years and 304 days old when he did so at the 2008 Hong Kong Open.

"My goal now is to be the youngest player ever to make the cut in a European Tour event, and I think if I can shoot level par or better I'll have a good chance to do that," Guan said.

Guan is also aiming to qualify for the U.S. Open in July, but insists his success on the course has not hampered his studies -- in fact, he's one of the top pupils in his class.

"I don't take schoolwork with me when I travel -- I just work very hard when I'm at school in Guangzhou," he said.

"Actually I'm doing pretty well right now and my grades are high. My favorite subjects are English and PE."

Guan, who started playing golf as a four-year-old, claimed the world junior crown last year in San Diego by 11 shots on the back of a flawless first-round 63, featuring nine birdies.

He is now tipped to also become the youngest player to ever compete in the Australian Masters in November and Australian Open in December.

If he does play Down Under, he may have the chance to follow in the footsteps of New Zealand's Lydia Ko, who at the age of 14 this year became the youngest professional winner at a women's tournament in New South Wales. Japan's Ryo Ishikawa previously held the record when he won on the Japan Tour in 2007, aged 15.

"Anyone who has seen Guan play would not rule him out from making the cut -- he really is a talented young player. He displays a maturity well beyond his 13 years and doesn't seem fazed by spectators or the intrusive nature of the media," China Open operations director Alistair Polson said.

"Being a local player I expect he will receive a lot of media attention so I hope he does well and gives the fans something to cheer about."


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