For Guan, New Orleans PGA stop too hard to pass up
Guan Tianlang decided that a chance to visit friends in the Big Easy while playing at least one more PGA Tour event was too good to pass up.
The 14-year-old had planned to return to his native China - and to school - after his appearance at Augusta National, where he became the youngest player to make the cut at the Masters. Then he received an invitation this week to play in the Zurich Classic from April 25-28.
''It's comfortable for me. I feel good to come back here,'' Guan said. ''We have some friends here and it's great for me to play in the Zurich Classic.''
Guan also noted that Zurich is a major sponsor of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship, the tournament he won to earn an invitation to Augusta.
At the suggestion of family friend Peter Chen, Guan spent part of last summer in New Orleans, working on his game at Lakewood Golf Club, which once hosted New Orleans' annual PGA Tour event. There, he also took time out to give tips to the course's youngest regulars, and plans to help out at Lakewood's youth clinic again this weekend.
He also had a chance last summer to play a couple rounds at the TPC Louisiana, where he is bound to be a fan favorite when he tees off alongside some of the top pros in the game next week.
Event organizers have asked Guan to play in the pre-tournament Pro-Am, and Guan said he probably would, but noted that it would be an unusual experience for him, as he smiled while pointing out that he is still an amateur himself.
For now, Guan said he has no plans to play another PGA Tour event and probably will return to China after the Zurich Classic.
Guan said he normally spends the Chinese school year in class like any other student, practicing only two hours a day after classes end.
When he travels for tournaments, the high school student takes his class work with him and does his best to keep up.
At the Zurich, Guan said he won't be too concerned about how he scores, adding that he hopes to ''just play well in the tournament and try to have fun.''
So far, Guan said, his newfound fame has not become too much of a hassle. He said he welcomes as much of a gallery as he can get, but is happy to go largely unnoticed in public.
''It's good to have more people support me and watch me play,'' Guan, who speaks some english, said with the help of an interpreter. ''But I never really ask for extra attention like Tiger Woods has already.''
In more than 100 amateur tournaments in Asia, Guan had never played in a gallery quite like the one at Augusta, and admitted he was ''really a little bit nervous'' on the first tee of the first round of the Masters. He wound up finishing with a four-round score of 300 - well out of contention at 12-over par.
Still, he said he was happy with his score at his first Masters and doesn't expect his nerves to be a problem going forward.
''I think it was a really, really good experience for me to play in the Masters,'' he said. ''So after that everything feels very comfortable.''