Sports

Guan, 14, captures amateur title, qualifies for Masters

Guan
Guan

Guan Tianlang is an eighth-grader from China who barely weighs 125 pounds and doesn’t hit the golf ball far enough to reach some par 4s. The next stop for the 14-year-old prodigy will be the Masters, where he will tee it up with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson at Augusta National.

Guan completed a wire-to-wire victory Sunday in the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Bangkok, making a 5-foot par putt on the final hole at Amata Spring Country Club for a one-shot win that earned him an invitation to the Masters.

“I’m really excited about it,” Guan said after closing with a 1-under 71. “I will be training maybe a little bit harder and got some more power for that because I’m still growing right now. So it will be great fun.”

He is believed to be the youngest male to play in a major championship. Andy Zhang of China, who trained at a golf academy in Florida, was 14 years, 6 months when he qualified for the U.S. Open last summer at The Olympic Club. Guan would be about a month younger.

Woods could have seen this coming.

Just two years ago, Woods was playing in the HSBC Champions pro-am at Sheshan International in Shanghai when Guan was in a group of juniors who played with him on the par-3 17th hole. Woods was amazed that day, not only at the polished swing of a 12-year-old, but the poise Guan showed at performing on such a stage – more than a thousand people in the gallery, an audience that included Woods, a 14-time major champion.

Even with a spot in the Masters on the line, Guan didn’t flinch.

Pan Cheng-tsung of Taiwan, who plays for the University of Washington and is the second-ranked amateur in Asia, made par on the 18th hole for a 65 that left him one shot behind. Guan, the youngest player at the Asia-Pacific Amateur, hits the ball only about 250 yards off the tee, and even a 3-wood for his second shot left him short of the green. Guan had made bogey twice on the 18th during the tournament.

“I think about it a little bit at the last hole, but I’m trying not to get it in my mind,” Guan said, referring to the Masters invitation. “So just want to focus on my game. I got a little bit nervous on the last putt because that’s the winning putt. But I just do my own routine and everything is good.”

He rolled in the final stroke with a belly putter, which he began using in June because he feels more stable over the putts.

Guan started playing when he was 4, going to the golf course with his parents. He goes to California for about three months during the year, staying with relatives in Los Angeles and San Diego to train. He first got attention last year at the Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego when he won his age division (11-12) by 11 shots.

Along with getting into the Masters, Guan earns a spot in the final stage of qualifying for the British Open. Pan, the runner-up, also gets a spot in the British Open qualifier.

PGA

Ian Poulter won the HSBC Champions in Shenzhen, China, for his first victory of the season, overcoming a four-stroke deficit with a 7-under 65.

The English Ryder Cup star finished at 21-under 267 on Mission Hills’ Olazabal Course for a two-stroke victory. The victory was his second in World Golf Championship play, following the 2010 Accenture Match Play Championship.

Phil Mickelson (68), Jason Dufner (64), Scott Piercy (65) and Ernie Els (67) tied for second. Lee Westwood and Louis Oosthuizen, tied for the third-round lead, shot 72 to drop into a tie for sixth at 18 under.

Champions Tour

Tom Lehman won the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Scottsdale, Ariz., to become the first Champions Tour player to win the season points title two straight years.

After shooting 68-63-62 to take a one-stroke lead into the final round, Lehman birdied four of the last five holes for a 5-under 65 and a six-stroke victory.

Lehman finished at 22-under 258 on Desert Mountain’s par-70 Cochise Course.

Jay Haas shot a 69 to finish second.

LPGA

Stacy Lewis rallied to win the Mizuno Classic at Shima, Japan, for her LPGA Tour-leading fourth title of the year, birdieing the final three holes for an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke victory.

The Texan, seven strokes behind South Korea’s Lee Bo-mee entering the round, had 10 birdies and two bogeys to finish at 11-under 205 at Kintetsu Kashikojima.

Trying to become the first American to win the player of the year award since Beth Daniel in 1994, Lewis moved 58 points ahead of South Korea’s Inbee Park in the player of the year standings with two events left. Each victory is worth 30 points.



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