AUGUSTA, Ga. — Remember what it was like to be 14 years old, standing on the corner of awkward and awesome?
Breaking out and breaking up were huge issues, usually more important than homework and cleaning your room.
Then theres Chinese 14-year-old Tianlang Guan.
He has a 12:24 p.m. tee time Thursday with 61-year-old Ben Crenshaw and 19-year-old Matteo Manassero in the first round of the Masters, taking the notion of precociousness to a new level in golf.
When I was 14, I was trying to play more tournaments. I was running track and cross country, trying to get homework done, said Tiger Woods, a prodigy himself.
Hes not in high school yet.
But Guan is in the Masters.
Guan, who became the youngest player to qualify for a major championship when he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship last year, took it on himself to text Jack Nicklaus media representative to ask for a sit-down session with the six-time Masters champion at Augusta. It impressed Nicklaus, who carved out time to talk with Guan, who is younger than some of the Golden Bears grandchildren.
I dont have many 14 year olds that have come to me for golf advice, Nicklaus said.
But like Bobby Jones did for Nicklaus years ago, he will do for Guan.
To state the obvious, Guan is not your typical 14-year-old. Hes been in Georgia for three weeks, taking advantage of the opportunity to play multiple practice rounds at Augusta National.
He isnt bashful. He sought out Crenshaw and played a Monday morning practice round with him. That afternoon, he went out with Woods and Dustin Johnson. On Tuesday, he played with Tom Watson and he arranged to play the Wednesday hit-and-giggle, par-3 event with Nick Faldo.
Guan doesnt need to visit the World Golf Hall of Fame. Hes played with it already this week.
The question beyond does Guan have a girlfriend and how much homework does he have between rounds is whether he can make the 36-hole cut this week.
Its not likely.
Augusta National is a big golf course and Guans game isnt built on power. He hangs just 135 pounds on his 5-foot-9 frame and he cant bomb the ball like so many of the guys hes playing against this week. In his practice round with Woods and Johnson, two guys who can go supersonic, Guan was routinely out-driven by 75 yards. He has a flat swing, wrapping his backswing low behind him, but hes uncommonly accurate. Put a hybrid in his hand and its like handing Phil Mickelson a wedge. Guan figures hell have 190 yards into the par-4 first hole and probably 220 into the par-4 11th. No big deal to him.
I would say Im not long enough, but I think Im still all right on this golf course, Guan said. Not really a serious problem.
You know how self-conscious teenagers can be. Not Guan, who isnt afraid to wear pants the color of a fluorescent margarita.
I think its going to be a little pressure on me, but Im not going to push myself too hard. Im going to enjoy the game, he said.
Thats what Crenshaw, the gentle soul of modern golf, advised him. Take it all in. Have fun.
Guan is young enough that if he doesnt qualify for the Masters next year, he can try to get to Augusta National next April as one of the finalists in the newly announced Drive, Chip & Putt competition open to youngsters ages 7 to 15.
Rory McIlroy, who at 23 seems a middle-aged man compared to Guan, shook his head when asked about the idea of a 14-year-old playing in the Masters. McIlroy remembers playing junior tournaments in Germany when he was that age and the fact he debuted at Augusta as a 19-year-old seems quaint now.
He could potentially play 60 Masters, McIlroy said. Its incredible. A great accomplishment.
One for the ages, so to speak.