BLOG: A genuine boost for the game in China
08th November 2012
I was at the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship in Amata Spring to witness one of the most sensational golf stories of the year as 14 year-old Guangzhou schoolboy Guan Tianlang triumphed over the best amateurs in the region to win not only the title, but a coveted place at the most exclusive golf tournament in the world, The Masters. Guan’s win made headlines across the world as he will become the youngest ever player to play at Augusts by two years, a phenomenal achievement. I worked on the first Asia Pacific Amateur Championship at Mission Hills in China in 2009 and I don’t think the R&A, The Masters and the Asia Pacific Golf Confederation (the joint organisers of the tournament) would have dreamt that in four short years, a Chinese player would win the event and take their place at The Masters.
There is a lot of talk, hyperbole and discussion about ‘growing the game’ in China and how best to encourage participation in the Middle Kingdom. High-profile tournaments such as the WGC HSBC and the BMW Masters drive global awareness and provide a pinnacle of the sport but Guan’s win will have a massive impact at the grassroots level. He is quite literally living the dream - a schoolboy going to the Masters! His practice regime is brutal and his commitment total. Long after he had finished his second round 64 over the Amata Spring course in Thailand, he was still on the putting green, rolling in putts whilst his competition was already on the bus home. He is a talented young man but he has the drive to succeed. This can be an inspiration to millions across China and the region. Tiger and Rory might be the aspiration, Guan can be the inspiration. He’s someone to relate to for the thousands of Chinese wannabe golfers, he’s the boy next door. If he can do it, why can’t they?
It was wonderful to be part of the event and watch this story unfold. Those who built the event, The Masters, The R&A and the APGC, can rightly feel proud of what the tournament has achieved. Guan will make history at Augusta next April but his legacy as a catalyst for ‘growing the game’ could be far, far more impactful.