Thursday, April 11, 2013

TIANLANG GUAN AND BEING 14-YEARS OLD



When I was 14-years old, I had one of the most frightening experiences in my life. I was a
freshman at Lake Forest High, which is located about 30 miles north of Chicago. I was going to
ask Carrie Pinkerton to go out with me. Man, you talk about sweaty palms, dry mouth,  and
the fear of looking bad? I had it.

If I was Forest Gump, Carrie was my Jen-naaaay. She was the prettiest thing I had ever laid I
eyes. Even though she wore blue jean overalls and a super tight and pink sweater, what seemed
like every single day, I had a mad crush on her. Asking her out was nerve racking. What should
I say, how should I do it, and will she notice the big zit on my forehead and nose? All those
questions went through my mind about a million times. I finally got the courage to pop the
biggest question  of my 14-year life. And you know what? Carrie Pinkerton said yes. Woo-hoo!
I was DA MAN!

I thought about that as I was watching Tianlang Guan become the youngest person ever to play in
the Masters. He's just 14-years old, the same age I was when I asked Carrie Pinkerton to be mine
during my freshman year. And it hit me. I said, "what the hell was I so nervous about? This kid's
playing the Masters before he hit puberty and I was scared out of my mind in asking Carrie out!" Unreal.


It was pretty unreal watching Guan play the perfectly manicured course at Augusta National. He
looked about as nervous as he probably was when he played a municipal course back in China
for the first time. The kid had ice in his veins. He didn't shake, sweat, or wet his pants in what
had  to be the biggest moment of his life. It certainly was one of the biggest moments in the history
of  the  Masters. Guan is the youngest golfer to tee it up in the tournament by TWO YEARS!
Simply, amazing.


Guan received an automatic spot in the Masters by winning an amateur tournament in China
that you've never heard of. Playing with two-times Masters champion, Ben Crenshaw, who was making his 42nd start in Augusta, Guan shot an incredible 73, which was just one-over par
and good enough to be low amateur of the day.

There was nothing amateur about Guan on this historic day. He bounced back from a bogey
on the opening hole, then played even for  the rest of the way. Guan's tricky birdie putt on 18,
snaked its way into the cup to the put an exclamation on one heckuva story. A 73 for a 14-year
old kid in the Masters? Wow. Tiger Woods played his first round in the Masters as an amateur
at 19-years old, which is a seasoned veteran compared to Guan. Tiger shot 72, making Guan's
opening score really, really, really, impressive


Leading up to the 2013 Masters, it was all about Tiger Woods. Tiger this, Tiger that, Tiger's
going to running away with the tournament as if nobody else is playing. Forget that. I'm tired of
it already. Watching Tianlang Guan is amazing. He's only 14! That means he still has plenty of
shanks, chilly-dips, and duck hooks left in his game because he's far from a finished product,
but he was simply brilliant. Poise? He's the definition of it.

Remarkably, Guan has played more than 200 tournaments in his young life already. None are
bigger than the Masters and he's acting (and playing) as if he's been a member at Augusta his
entire life. It's truly a beautiful thing to watch.

This is so innocent, so pure, and so fascinating to watch unfold. There is no scandal, no drama,
and no agents plotting his every move and sound bite. This is scintillating.


When Guan tees it up on Friday morning, he will have more new fans they he could've have
every imagined. Eyes will be fixated on him, the experts will critique every part of his game,
and part of our faith in the purity of sports, will be restored.

Forget about Tiger, Guan will get all of my attention for the rest of this tournament. And  he'll get,
remarkably, even more attention than I gave to Carrie Pinkerton back in the day, as a 14-year
old freshman in high school. What the heck was I thinking?

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